pipe organ

Chris Cronje reinstalls pieces of the Holy Communion Episcopal Church’s organ.

LAKE GENEVA — Lake Geneva’s historic downtown church organ is coming home — one restored piece at a time.

Parishioners at Holy Communion Episcopal Church are welcoming back their 19th-century Hook & Hastings pipe organ after a four-month offsite restoration effort.

Crews from Buzard Pipe Organ Builders in Champaign, Ill., have started returning pieces of the restored church treasure — and delicately reassembling it inside the church.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” parish member Tom McGrath said. “Everyone is excited about it all being put back together.”

The congregation worked five years to raise about $65,000 to repair and restore the organ.

The music piece was donated to Holy Communion in 1883, after being manufactured in Boston and then shipped to Chicago by train. It has not undergone significant restoration since the 1960s.

Crews estimate that it will take a few weeks to bring back all of the repaired pieces and reinstall the organ inside the church at 320 Broad St.

Pastor Kevin Huddleston said he is looking forward to hearing the organ’s music once again.

“We’ve been missing it,” he said. “We’ve been waiting patiently.”

Crew members began by reinstalling the organ’s main wind chest, wind reservoir and connecting pieces to the wind chest.

David Brown, foreman for Buzard Pipe Organ Builders, said more of the restored pieces, including the pipes, will be reinstalled during the next week.

Church members hope to be able to use the organ again during their June 9 opening service. Huddleston said the church also plans to host a community concert with the organ in August.

“For us, it will enhance our worship services and music program,” Huddleston said.

The church had worked hard in recent years to finance and plan the organ’s restoration.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the congregation,” McGrath said. “They are the ones who made this happen.”

The organ was donated to the church in June 1883 by Mrs. George Mary Delafied Sturges. The organ, which is a Hook & Hastings brand, was installed in Lake Geneva during the early 1800s.

Brown said Hook & Hastings was one of the best organ builders in the country at the time.

“They had an exceptional reputation when this organ was built,” he said. “So the church chose quite wisely and invested in this organ.”

After decades of usage, however, it was in need of significant repairs.

Brown said there is still more work that will need to be done in the future on the historic musical piece. He said the organ’s swell wind chest is the next portion that will need attention.

“This is one stage of the restoration,” he said. “The main wind chest was prioritized, because it was considered to not be in as good of condition.”

Brown said he and his company have enjoyed being involved with the restoration project.

“When you’re restoring an organ like this, you feel a connection to the craftsmen who built it,” he said. “You’re respecting their work by restoring it and leaving it for future generations. It’s one of the things I love about this trade.”

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