In 1919 David A. Pressley, Organist at Washington Street Church for 60 years, proposed the purchase of a new pipe organ. In Spring 1920 the church signed a contract with the E.M. Skinner Organ Company of Boston for the purchase of a new, three-manual instrument with 33 ranks of pipes for $17,500. The purchase of the organ was made possible thanks to generous financial support from Margaret and Austin Childs and Janie Childs Phifer, who contributed $2,600 for an antiphonal organ in memory of their mother. William E. Zeuch, a distinguished church organist from Boston, played the dedication recital on February 9, 1922.
The first major alterations to the Skinner instrument occurred in the early 1970s. In 1971 Philip J. Swartz, of Jacksonville, Florida, enlarged the instrument to approximately 56 ranks. Three years later the original Skinner console was replaced with a new four-manual console custom built by the Reisner Manufacturing Company of Hagerstown, Maryland.
In 2005 an organ committee, chaired by Eva Nance, began research on the work needed to renovate the organ. Morris Spearman, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was employed to guide the decision-making process. After a successful capital campaign in Spring 2007, the Church Board of Trustees contracted with R.A. Colby, Inc. of Johnson City, Tennessee, to renovate the 85-year-old instrument. The contract included the installation of a new console. The organ was disassembled, removed from the Sanctuary and taken to the Colby Shop in Tennessee in October 2007. Eleven months later, the rebuilt organ was returned to the Church, reassembled, revoiced and tuned.
This fine rebuilt instrument continues to enhance our worship with its magnificent sounds. In 2008 the organ was rededicated and named the Ralph R. Rozier\E.M. Skinner organ in honor of Mr. Rozier’s 45 years of dedicated service as organist for Washington Street United Methodist Church.
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