Wurlitzer Opus 970 was built in 1924 for the Colney Theatre in Philadelphia, and was subsequently owned by Leonard and Louise Johnson of Hingham, MA. In 2004 the Johnsons donated the organ to the Strand Theatre in Plattsburgh, NY. Though added to, the orignial core of the organ, including the electro-pneumatic relay and combination action, remained unaltered.
A volunteer group, under the direction of Jonathan Ortloff, removed the organ from the Johnson's home, and began its restoration in 2005. From the beginning, the guiding principal of the project was a strict restoration with no changes.
In 2011, a generous donation to the theatre made possible the final phases of the organ's restoration and installation. These final phases were completed with Spencer Organ Company of Waltham, MA in 2012-2013. Under Mr Ortloff’s direction, all 608 pipes were restored at Spencer, along with some of the percussions and console, and the organ was erected on entirely new framing and with new winding. Notably, all regulated windlines in the organ are of rolled and soldered zinc, with cast lead flanges, duplicating original Wurlitzer practice. Opus 970 is the first Wurlitzer restored with this detail replicated. The electo-pneumatic console machinery was restored without change, and the organ’s original specification was retained. The deteriorated state of the original relay necessitated the retrofitting of a modern digital relay to the instrument.
Several missing pieces, including the Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Trap Trunk, 16´ Ophiclide, and original Vox Humana were all replaced with vintage Wurlitzer components.
The organ’s installation began in August, 2013, and lasted through the end of September. Clark Wilson and Jonathan Ortloff performed the tonal finishing, and the instrument was dedicated to a standing-room-only audience on October 29, 2013.