Out & About with the Pumpkin: Organ Music to Shop By

The Grand Court Organ at the Philadelphia Wannamaker's / Macy's department store.

If you’re not from Philadelphia and have never been, you probably have no idea where this pipe organ lives. You’d probably guess a church because that’s where they usually live. But no! This one lives in the once named Wannamaker’s department store, which is presently a Macy’s (look shoes!).

During the early part of the 20th Century, department stores were new concepts for shopping in American cities. They were very grand places and the-place-to-be destinations for the most stylish of urban dweller. In 1910, John Wannamaker, who by that time was a successful department store owner, built a new building for his store on the corner of Market and Juniper Streets. Designed to be very elegant and opulent, the store featured, among other amenities, a multi-story central atrium in which Wannamaker installed the former St. Louis World’s Fair pipe organ. (source: wikipedia)

Even though it was one of the largest organs of the day, Wannamaker thought it wasn’t loud enough and went about increasing it in size and volume. Today, with over 28,000 pipes, it is the “largest operational pipe organ in the world.” And surprisingly enough, when they play it, it really isn’t all that boombastic. The pipes are exposed, which is always nice and adds to the beauty of the instrument, and you can observe the organist playing. It doesn’t look terribly large in the photo but that’s a very, very large space and only a fraction of the pipes are exposed.

Unfortunately, I would have had to create a rope out of ladies pantyhose and lower the Pumpkin over the side to take a picture of them together so she’s just off camera for this one.

Organs need to be played and there are two, 45-minute concerts every day except Sunday. The Wanamaker Organ website lists the schedule as:
Monday through Saturday: 12 p.m.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday: 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday and Friday: 7 p.m.

Visitors are welcome to tour the console area (2nd floor) and meet the staff following the daily concerts. The concerts are free because honestly, you can’t not hear it when you’re in the store. It’s one of our favorite stops on the way home.

And if you think having a pipe organ in a store in unusual, allow me to introduce the Longwood Organ! Apparently Pierre du Pont, of those du Ponts, was really into pipe organs and when you have that much money you can get one installed in your house. I understand; I really do. Growing up, I was uber fascinated with pipe organs and always wanted to learn to play. Anyway, although not as big as the Wannamaker organ, the du Pont organ is pretty large, with more than 10,000 pipes. Many concerts are included with admission to the gardens.

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