The Notre Dame Organ is an 1890 Hamill two manual, twenty – one rank tracker organ
that is registered as an Important, Historic Organ with the Organ Historical Society. Such a distinction is not given to just any organ, regardless of its age, and serves as a testament to this monumental instrument that we are so fortunate to have. It is a priceless treasure of the Notre Dame Parish Community and as is true with all things, it needs adequate and appropriate care and treatment as time goes on.
Our organ is not your run-of-the-mill ‘church’ organ, and the story of how it came into our possession is not so ordinary either…
The late 1800’s were by far the pinnacle of classical American Tracker organ design. In particular were the builders of the North East, especially those located in Boston and New York City. S. S. Hamill, our own organ’s creator, had established himself early on in the art of great organ building, with instruments located in almost every state at the time. Canada and the West Indies (including the Cathedral Organ of San Felipe in Havana, Cuba), installed in places as diverse as churches, schools, music halls, ect. Organ in particular was bound for a school….but didn’t quite make the full voyage.
On a seasonable day in the Summer of 1890, a rather odd item was sitting open on a train car – a disassembled organ. This was not a typical organ, but rather an organ bound for a musical school, which meant that this particular organ had more to it than your typical church organ, it had ‘all the stops’, and was meant to be a show piece not only for those would eventually play it, but also for the one who built it, so that all who heard it would know that S. S. Hamill was in fact a great organ builder.
As luck would have it, construction was just about done wrapping up on the then almost finished Eglise de Notre Dame de Victoraire, that is, except for one critical flaw, the masterfully organ. Pere Omar LaRose, priest for the congregation for some time now, had a particularly good eye, and apparently an ability to haggle. We don’t know how, and we don’t know why, but the show piece organ bound for the music college in Peoria Illinois, never made it, and rests in our choir loft to this day.
Unfortunately, sense the installation of the organ over 100 years ago; there has been no restoration to date. In 1972 stop-measure were taken to keep the organ working, but left many of the original mechanisms disassembled and disabled – severely impacting the organ’s playability and value.