Provo church raises funds to acquire historic organ from Salt Lake church

Pipes for an organ at the First Congregational Church in Salt Lake City. The organ was donated to the Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ, and will be used in at church building once it is renovated. The church announced this week it has raised enough money to transport and store the organ.

Pipes for an organ at the First Congregational Church in Salt Lake City. The organ was donated to the Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ, and will be used in at church building once it is renovated. The church announced this week it has raised enough money to transport and store the organ. (David Lewis, Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ)


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PROVO — A historic 45-rank organ, meaning it has 45 rows of pipes — each with a specific sound, will soon be making its way from Salt Lake City to a church in Provo.

The Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ, located on University Avenue near Provo Center Street, announced this week that it has raised enough money to transport and store the 1892 pipe organ. The organ will be added to the church building as part of larger renovations.

When it was built, this organ was the largest in Utah. This Provo church is helping save the historic organ and bring some of its history down to Provo.

Although it will cost about $50,000 to move and store the organ and even more money to get the pipes refreshed and the chapel built to fit the organ, this donated organ is saving the church a significant amount of money. A new pipe organ could be millions of dollars.

The Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ has been raising money to renovate its building for about a year and a half, and has already started with projects like replacing the roof. But the church has its eyes set on something bigger.

The hope is to help the church building become a place for community events, and the pipe organ will help create that space.

"What we're really wanting to do is not only benefit the the congregation itself, but the community at large," said David Lewis, church music director, building liaison and public affairs representative for the Provo church.

He said they are hoping to fill a void left when the Provo Tabernacle, located just a few blocks south, was converted into the Provo City Center Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and could no longer host community musical events.

Lewis said the Provo church already hosts multiple choir performances, a yearly Christmas event called Carols by Candlelight and a Messiah singalong, but church officials want to accommodate a larger audience and larger performance groups and orchestras.

"We are excited that so many in the community opened their pocket books to save this special gift that will bless the Provo community for years to come," said Lewis.

The organ was donated by the First Congregational Church on the east side of Salt Lake City, which has housed the organ for almost 60 years. It will be removed in late fall and brought to a storage facility. The Provo church is still looking for a storage unit that will be able to handle pipes and cases that are 20 feet long.

In its current home, Lewis said the pipes have largely been hidden behind a wooden lattice and decorative screen but he went inside to look at the pipes and check on their condition.

Some of the pipes are facade pipes, which are not all speaking pipes, but were initially on the outside of the church and hid the organ's mechanics. They still have the original stenciling, which Lewis said doesn't go with a modern organ. Although they might get a new look, the church is planning to make the pipes visible in their chapel.

Pipes for an organ at the First Congregational church in Salt Lake City. The organ was donated to the Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ, and will be used in their building once it is renovated. The church announced on Wednesday it has raised enough money to transport and store the organ.
Pipes for an organ at the First Congregational church in Salt Lake City. The organ was donated to the Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ, and will be used in their building once it is renovated. The church announced on Wednesday it has raised enough money to transport and store the organ. (Photo: David Lewis, Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ)

The fundraising effort is called Keeping the Faith in Downtown Provo, and the church is hoping to raise $8 million for renovations and an expansion that will allow the church to hold the organ.

Lewis said the church is almost 100 years old, so the first phase of renovations is replacing the roof, stucco, windows and other exterior issues of the building. Lewis said the organ was designed to be part of phase three of a five-phase project, but church officials conducted a smaller fundraiser specifically for the organ so they could take advantage of the gift.

They are still hoping for more publicity for their cause and more donations from community members.

"If it was just for a church, that would be one thing — this is really a community driven project," Lewis said. "The church has always been a community driven congregation from its get-go in the late 1800s when it was formed."

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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