Rare organ saved by sale

A rare pipe organ built more than a century ago by the Verney Organ Co., in Mason City, Iowa, soars 26 feet high. It was saved from the scrap heap when it was purchased by the VIVA! Performing Arts School in Dixon, Ill.

MASON CITY -- A rare pipe organ built in Mason City more than a century ago that was headed for the scrap heap has been saved.

The organ, with pipes that soar 26 feet high, has been purchased by a performing arts school in Illinois, the Globe Gazette reported Thursday.

The organ, built by the Verney Organ Co., will be moved to Dixon, Ill, where it will be installed in Philander Hall, one of the performance venues operated by the VIVA! Performing Arts School.

VIVA! officials heard of Verney through the Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, said Curt Schmitt, chairman of the board of VIVA!.

Schmitt built organs for 40 years and knew the Dobson people well. Dobson had done some extensive restoration of the Verney.

Schmitt knew less restoration would be needed on the Verney than what would be needed on another organ the school first considered using.

"It is distinctly beautiful," Schmitt said. "The case ... the stenciling on the pipes. No one does that anymore."

He said the organ has a "genteel sound," and will be a good fit for the Philander, a 60-seat hall that features chamber music performances.

The organ has been housed for several years at Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids.

It was purchased in the 1990s from Parkersburg United Methodist Church. Two years ago, Christ Episcopal Church decided to sell it because members wanted to remodel the music space. The church offered it for sale for $1, but there were no takers.

Church members decided if nobody would agree to take it off their hands, it would have to be dismantled and sold for parts.

Mason City residents tried to see if the organ could be brought back to its birthplace. The Kinney Pioneer Museum and America Guild of Organists' northern Iowa chapter were among those interested, but the Verney was too big to house and too expensive to move.

"There just aren't a lot of places you can put it," said Richard Peterson, president of the board of trustees for Kinney Pioneer Museum, which houses a collection ranging from cars to a log cabin near the Mason City airport.

The Rev. Martha Rogers of Christ Episcopal Church said she was "thrilled" the organ would be preserved.

"Not only will this organ find a home, it will be performed on and kept in top-notch shape," she said.

The Verney organ is one of three known to exist. The others are in Terre Haute, Ind., and Highland, Wis.

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