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The Organs of Greater Philadelphia: Some Might Surprise You

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Kimmel Center Verizon Theater: The Verizon Theater, a violin-shaped burnished wood space nestled within the vast glass Kimmel Center, is home not only to the Philadelphia Orchestra, but also to the largest mechanical-action concert hall organ in the U.S., with nearly 7,000 pipes. The smallest, made of metal, is the size of a drinking straw. The largest is wooden and is two feet square and 32 feet long. The whole apparatus is truly a work of art, both for the eyes and ears, and ranks 47th largest in the world. You can see it in its glory during a concert, or take a tour of Philly’s most Phenomenal (and newest) Performing Arts Center, the Kimmel. Free daily at 1 p.m.

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Macy’s (formerly Wanamaker’s): Are you in a church? On the set of Phantom of the Opera? In Macy’s? Really? I just came in to buy some socks and get to hear this? Purchased in 1909 by John Wanamaker for his impressive Department Store, 13 freight cars were required to ship all the parts of this unwieldy instrument, built for the 1904 World’s Fair, from St. Louis to downtown Philadelphia. Over the years, more pipes were added, and they now outnumber those of the Kimmel Center’s organ by a factor of four — that’s more than 28,000 pipes. When Macy’s took over Wanamaker’s, it inherited the beautifully wrought, World’s Largest Operational Organ (valued at $57 million), and continues to delight shoppers and tourists with twice-daily concerts most days (Monday-Saturday 12 p.m.; Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Friday 7 p.m.).

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Longwood Gardens Conservatory Ballroom: Philly certainly has a thing about big organs, as the largest in various categories reside in the Greater Philadelphia area. Take Longwood Gardens, for instance. Everyone goes there for the astounding number of flowers, plants and fountains, yet not too many people know about the 10,100 organ pipes behind glass in a somewhat hidden room. The original owner of Longwood Gardens, Pierre du Pont, loved music and performing arts, and his pipe organ remains the largest purchased for a private residence in the world. As you make your way around the indoor Conservatory, you’ll find the majestic ballroom with etched rose glass ceiling and crystal. The organ itself looks rather small in the vast space, but walk to the back of the room and go through a door into a small area where you’ll see the three sections of pipes arrayed behind glass. This is as close as you’ll get to the guts of any organ on this list.

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William Penn Statue Atop City Hall: Speaking of big organs….how can I put this delicately? When viewed from a certain angle, the State’s namesake seems to have one. In a post on WeirdUS.com, entitled, “Is That Penn’s Penis?” this phenomenon is explained thusly: “The official story is that Penn’s statue is holding a copy of the treaty he signed with the Lenni Lenape tribe, and it faces the place where the treaty was signed. However, the statue is holding the treaty at waist level, and while driving or strolling down the Franklin Parkway, it looks for all the world as though he’s preparing to urinate off the top of the building. Now, this could be purely coincidental, but then again, Philadelphia has a history of high-profile puckish humor that dates back to Benjamin Franklin.” Intentional or coincidental? Puckish humor or cluelessness? Come to Philadelphia and you be the judge.

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As a matter of fact, visit Greater Philadelphia and you’ll find all kinds of organs in the most unlikely places….

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Longwood Gardens Cactus Bed

 

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