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The Wintergarden

 

The Wintergarden Centre in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall commemorates in its name the Wintergarden Theatre which used to occupy part of its site, a theatre which was an object of wonder when it opened, even though it was soon overshadowed by its near neighbour, the Regent (itself now hardly a wraith of its erstwhile splendour). Of those who pass through the Centre today, few would recall the lighting effects which marked the theatre as a world-leader in the early 1920s, or the organ it housed for over a decade.

 

By the 1920s, Brisbane was starting to mature as a city:

 

"'Brisbane is goin' to be a great city', observed Davidson, leaning back from his breakfast, and folding his arms across his broad chest - 'a very great city. Th' difference th' last thirty years have made in ud, no man that wer' not a magishun could imagine. 'Twere nearly all vacant illotments an' bits of drapery shops, an' shan-ties less than thirty year ago; an' old horrses with no legs on thim wer' strugg-lin' to drag 'buses loaded with fat women up th' steep hills - poor old crocks that cud hardly drag their tails after th'm! Th' poperlation weren't mor'n a fistful, an' no one was doin' anythin', but th' hurdy-gurdy men, an' th' hot pie sellers, an' th' busted banks. Everyone else wer' walkin' about or leanin' against th' posts an' against one another. Now look at ud' - Davidson felt in his pocket for his pipe - ' 'tis full of grand shops an' emporiums, an' people, an' tram carrs an' picture palaces, an' Treasury buildings, an' schools an' pubs, an' churches, an' employed, an' a University.'"  (Steele Rudd)

 

 

It is thus not surprising that Union Theatres decided to build in Brisbane what was to be Australia's first "super cinema", as they later became known. A photograph of the Wintergarden Theatre under construction appeared in "Everyone's", the cinema trade journal, on 14 November, 1923, followed by an architect's drawing in the issue of 5 December, 1923. In April, 1924, details were released:

 

"The construction of the Wintergarden Theatre, Brisbane, is developing rapidly, and it is thought that the theatre will open in the course of the next two or three months.

"There will be quite an influx of people from overseas con-nected with the theatre, which will take place shortly. Mr W.A. Robbins, so well known in Australia, he has re-sided in New York for several years, and who has been instrumental in a lot of successful produc-tions of the Cap-itol, Rialto and Rivoli Theatres* where he has been working in conjunction with the producing end of the business, is being specially brought out to Australia for the purpose of handling the presentation of the entertain-ment at the Wintergarden Theatre, Brisbane. Mr Robbins is bringing with him several thousand pounds of machi-nery and equip-ment which will enable an entertainment to be presented in the Winter-garden entirely different, and far in advance of anything Australia has so far seen.

"Many novelties in the way of decorations will be introduced in this theatre, and not the least of which will be the stage novelties which Mr Robbins will be bringing out with him.

"In addition to Mr Robbins, an American organist is being sent out by the Rudolf Wurlitzer Company at a very high salary for the purpose of, for a few months, handling the musical end of the business in Brisbane. The organ that is going into the Brisbane Theatre is costing in the region of £10,000, and it has been thought advisable to get an expert from the Wurlitzer Company to visit Australia for the purpose of operating it in its early stages.

"Mr Dodd, the well-known organ manufacturer of Adelaide, has the installation of the organ in hand, which has arrived in Brisbane, and will be erected shortly."

 

Wurlitzer factory view of organ similar to the Wintergarden's being tested prior to shipment, approx. 1919

Interest was sustained by a further press release in June, 1924:

"A considerable amount of activity was apparent regarding the Wintergarden Theatre, Brisbane, last week, when Messrs. Stuart Doyle and E.J. Tait (directors), Mr Ballantyne (architect) and Mr Purves (manager), journeyed to Brisbane for the purpose of finalising all matters regarding the opening of the theatre with Mr Dan Carroll in Brisbane. There is every prospect that this theatre will open early in August, and, from those qualified to judge, there is every indication that it will certainly be the finest theatre in Australia. Mr Emmelhainz, works manager of Union theatres Ltd., is now resident in Brisbane, supervising all the electrical equipment. Mr Robbins, who has arrived from New York, is at work upon the stage.

"The Wurlitzer Company are busily engaged installing an organ in the theatre, which has cost considerably over £6,000, and for which a special player, who has a world-wide reputation, is being brought from the United States, and who will arrive in four weeks' time.

"Altogether, Brisbane amusement lovers are looking forward with some pleasurable anticipation to seeing something extraordinarily good when this theatre opens its doors."

 It is interesting that the reported cost of the organ has fallen by some 40%! It was more often than not the practice of cinema owners to inflate in their publicity releases the cost of the organs they installed. For this reason all costs quoted in contemporary newspaper reports should be viewed with a degree of scepticism. In the trade press, however, costs quoted could be expected to be more accurate. There may have been some confusion in this instance, perhaps between American dollars and Australian pounds.

Installation of the Wurlitzer organ, showing the main pipe chamber with pipes and other parts on the stage. The console is covered at the left of the pit, the roll-player unit is at the extreme right of the photo (centre of pit).

Source: "Vox" - November, 1971

 

The 2500-seat Wintergarden Theatre opened at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, 1 August, 1924, billed as "More than a Theatre - a Revelation". The advertisement continued, extolling the merits of the new theatre:

"A theatre designed for Queensland's climate, with open sides and steel roller shutters to open at will ... the greatest lighting scheme ever introduced into a theatre. Over 10,000 light points - yet no lights visible. Enough to light a city ... The biggest theatre organ in Australia, costing £10,000, and  representing an orchestra of 100, which will alternate during performances with the Concert Orchestra of 20 Picked Artists ... America's foremost organist, Mr Byron Hopper, Mus. Bac., specially engaged, has just arrived per R.M.S. Najura from New York City, and will demonstrate this magnificent instrument ... Winte-garden Royal Orchestra of 20 performers, under the baton of Mr Haydn Beck, acknowledged as Australia's foremost conductor, and late of J.C. Williamsons Ltd..."

 

The Wintergarden's lighting system is worth more than a passing mention, as it was one of the most advanced and sophisticated in the world at that time, living up to its claims to be able to produce a veritable kaleidoscope of effects, all controlled from a console as complex as that of the organ.

"Perhaps what strikes a visitor most on entering the theatre proper is the massive ceiling, carried out in fibrous plaster, which is 75ft above the floor, a veritable work of art, and contains an indirect lighting system unknown in any other Brisbane theatre. The ceiling is designed from Australian plants and ferns, staghorns and elkhorns. Looking upwards, it has the ap-pearance of a shroud of filmy lace stretched across the ceiling... The lighting has been so arranged that there are no exposed lights in the auditorium. The lamps, of which there are three circuits, one of red, one of amber, and one of blue, are hidden between coves and reflected on the domes. An extensive dimming system has been installed which permits the merging of these colours into each other, and as a result any colour in light at any degree of intensity may be obtained."

Source: "Everyone's", 24 September, 1924, p. 16

Prices of seats ranged from 9d. to 2/- (plus tax) on weekdays and from 1/- to 3/- (plus tax) on Saturdays.

The opening film was "Where the North Begins", starring Rin Tin Tin - "a thrilling drama of the far North, in which a Wonder Dog plays a Wonderful Part". Press reports stated that "the magnificent organ demonstrated by Mr Byron Hopper, Mus. Bac., delighted the audience".

 

View showing the auditorium shortly before the opening. The organ console stands at the right, in front of the pit, ready to be raised to its position in the proscenium wall opposite the main chamber. The echo chamber spoke through the top of the proscenium. The roll-player console may be discerned in the centre of the pit.

Source: Ross Thorne, "Picture Palace Architecture in Australia".

 

The Wintergarden's Organ

 

"Experts were busy yesterday at the Wintergarden Theatre connecting up the most remarkable pipe organ that has ever been put together in Brisbane. A pipe organ! It is more than that; it will do many things that this colossus of instruments hitherto has not usually been called upon to do. It will play with a harp-like effect, blow an alarm syren, play castanets, produce the sounds of galloping horses and sleigh bells, ring chimes and do many other 'stunts'. The organ, which is built in on one side of the proscenium, is controlled from a double manual in the orchestra pit. The keys of this manual on depression release electric currents which, in turn, release the air power which operates the organ. The pipes range in size from one inch in length, with the diameter of a pencil, to giants through which a man's body could pass, and which stand sixteen feet high. A second instrument is placed ten feet above the ceiling in the centre of the audito-rium for echo and celestial effects. All this contrivance is in charge of Mr Byron C. Hopper, of New York, a graduate of a Middle West University, who, sitting at the keyboard, can combine the variously-toned pipes in endless number by the outwardly simple process of pressing a piston with his thumb; or by pressing more heavily he may play a 'cello solo with some fingers, while a lighter pressure from others calls up the lighter voices of the accompanying instruments, and an accent on even a single note may be obtained by the pressure of a pedal."

 

 Two-Manual Wurlitzer console similar to the Wintergarden organ.

Source: Wurlitzer Unit Organs (1926 catalogue)

 

The organ was a two-manual instrument with seven ranks of pipes (Tuba Horn, Diaphonic Diapason, Clarinet, Salicional, Viol Céleste, Flute and Vox Humana) and the normal tonal and non-tonal percus-sions and effects. It was a slightly modified version of Wurlitzer's Style 185. The main differences were the addition of intra-manual couplers, the substitution of a Salicional for a Viol d'Orchestre and the enclosure of the Vox Humana, tonal and non-tonal percussions in a separate "echo" chamber above the proscenium arch. The main organ chamber, containing the remaining six ranks of pipes, was located in the left-hand splay wall. Although the press review above refers to the console being in the orchestra pit at the time of the opening, this is probably not be correct. It were ever in the pit, it was certainly very soon placed in an unusual position, recessed half-way up the right-hand proscenium splay wall, immediately opposite the main pipe chamber. This was presumably done to make room for the orchestra, as with twenty players, plus the organ console and the player console and its rolls, pit space would have been at a premium.

A feature of the organ was a roll-player console, which was used to provide music for the least important shows each day.

 

When the Wintergarden Theatre opened, there were six shows daily. Those at 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. were accompanied by the "Wintergarden Grand Organ" (i.e., the roll-player), those at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. by Byron Hopper at the organ, and there were "Performances de luxe" at 2:30 p.m., with the Wintergarden Concert Orchestra, Byron Hopper at the organ (alternating with the orchestra) and Vaudeville artistes.

The organ's automatic roll-player was operated by the theatre's usherettes. It could accommodate two rolls at a time, to assure continuity while one roll was rewound, and, if desired, to permit instant changes of music to match mood changes in the film. It was provided with stop-keys to control the organ tones.

"Joe Whitehouse was the tuner. Joe told me that the double tracker-bar roll-player was a thorough menace and caused much heart-burning to Joe and the theatre manage-ment alike. The usherettes often neglected to close the machine, and rats supplemented their daily diet with a fricassée of rubber tubing, laced with felt and machine oil; anyway, the rodents must have liked the Wintergarden, because they always returned when the usherettes left the player cabinet open, and poor Joe would again work all night putting the machine into working order again."

The Wintergarden's corps of usherettes - which of these operated the Wurlitzer's player?

The instrument was despatched from the Wurlitzer factory in North Tonawanda, N.Y., on 15 December, 1923, being Opus 748.

Just over thirty Style 185 organs were built by Wurlitzer, of which the Wintergarden's was the last. One other Style 185 came to Australia, being opened at the De Luxe Theatre, Melbourne, in 1922. Wurlitzer built a total of a little over 2200 theatre organs, 145 of them in 1923.

 

The Style 185 Wurlitzer

 

The Brisbane Wintergarden organ is of particular historical interest in that it was the last Wurlitzer organ built which was virtually unchanged in design from the original stock model Unit Orchestras designed by Robert Hope-Jones.

When Hope-Jones joined Wurlitzer in April, 1910, to set up the Unit Orchestra Department, one of his priority tasks was to create a small range of stock design organs:

"I have not forgotten for a moment, that the instrument that is chiefly wanted is the first of the stock pattern house unit orchestra."

"I have not forgotten your wish to have full specifications and details of the various styles of Unit Orchestras so far arranged."

Hope-Jones proposed a two-manual organ with six ranks of pipes and a limited range of percussions to be known as the Style 3. It was to contain the following resources:

16ft Tuba Horn 85 pipes

16ft Concert Flute 97 pipes (with Diaphonic Bass)

8ft Viol d'Orchestre 73 pipes

8ft Viol Céleste 61 pipes

8ft Clarinet 61 pipes

8ft Vox Humana 61 pipes

4ft Glockenspiel 37 notes

4ft Sleigh Bells 27 notes

Tremulant

Snare Drum

Triangle

These ranks were to be distributed over: Pedal (7 stops), Great (18 stops), Swell (15 stops). The recommended cost was $10,000 with automatic player, or $8,800 without.

The purely orchestral design of the organ is instantly apparent, every rank being an imitative stop. However, it was soon realised that in the acoustical environment of theatres such designs lacked volume. Hope-Jones described how in his earlier instruments:

"...my powerful 'tibias' furnished a stream of colourless (organ) tone that carried forward the orchestral tones and made them satisfactory.

In the Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra, I have (by request) for the first time tried the experiment of omitting these organ tones. This is the reason our orchestral tones have failed to 'carry'…"

The solution in the case of the "draft" Style 3 was to add a Diaphonic Diapason rank (16, 8, 4 - 85 pipes) to give a substantial foundation to the orchestral voices. The Style 3 thus emerged as a seven-rank instrument, with a larger range of percussions when the first instruments were completed in 1912.

Some 47 Style 3 Unit Orchestras were built before the specification was slightly modified to become the Style 185, with the same complement of pipe ranks, in 1918.

Robert Hope-Jones plays a Style 3 Wurlitzer Unit Orchestra at the factory in approx. 1912

Photo: G Hare

It is interesting to note that Tibias were omitted "by request" of the Wurlitzer Company, as this is the sound more than any other which later characterised Wurlitzer and other theatre organs to the general public.

Indeed, Stephens Irwin remarked of the Tibia Clausa: "It has done more to endear the pipe organ to the unmusical man than any other stop except the Diapason of the church organ." Wurlitzer's experience of organs so far was confined to orchestrions and merry-go-round organs, and they may have wished to exclude non-orchestral voices from their products. Hope-Jones himself tended to view the Tibia Clausa as mainly a solo stop in his theatre organs, often of short (37 note) compass and at 8ft pitch only. Thus it was that organs as large as eight ranks (the early Style 4 model) were built without that sine qua non of the theatre organ.

Nine Style 3s were installed before Hope-Jones' death in September, 1914. The construction cost of a Style 3 (without the automatic player) was quoted by Hope-Jones at US$4350 in February, 1912, by which time six of the instruments were complete or under construction (including four with automatic players). Wurlitzer sales records for the period show that Style 3 organs generally sold for US$10,000.

A Style 3 organ which achieved considerable fame was Opus 52, which was installed in the Palace of Mines and Energy at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco. Daily recitals were given by Henry Spiller, former organist of the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City, Long Island, NY. An illustrated brochure about the instrument described the many features of Wurlitzer organs. The instrument itself was installed in glass-walled chambers so that all the pipes and mechanisms (including the blower) could be viewed. When the exhibition closed, the organ was installed in the Strand Theatre, Reno.

Style 185, probably because of its lack of a Tibia, was far less popular than the Style E (Two manuals and seven ranks) which followed it in 1924 (over 160 built) and the Style F (two manuals, eight ranks, over 90 built), both of which had Tibia Clausa ranks.

 

Wurlitzer organs of Style F (8 ranks) and larger were usually installed in two chambers: Solo (Tuba, Tibia, Vox, percussions and effects) and Main (Diapason, Flute, Strings, Clarinet and Chrysoglott). Separate echo chambers were very rare on such small instruments.

The only other example in Australia was at the Prince Edward Theatre, Sydney, where the ten-rank Wurlitzer organ was designed to be installed in three chambers (solo, main, echo), but was actually installed in two, for reasons which are unknown. It is believed that the addition of an extra chamber increased the cost of Wurlitzer organs in America by approxi-mately US$1,000. It is not immediately apparent what particular advantage was served by providing an echo chamber at the Wintergarden. The difficulties of keeping an isolated Vox rank in tune with the main instrument in Brisbane's climate during the days before air-conditioning must have been substantial.

Pipework of the main organ chamber

Stoplist of the Wintergarden Organ

The organ's seven ranks can be briefly described:

Tuba Horn

A smooth, close-toned cross between a Tuba and French Horn, the most powerful stop on the organ, but designed to blend as a chorus reed with the other ranks when required. Extended to form an Ophicleide bass of knuckled, fairly large scale reed pipes.

The Tuba Horn was one of Hope-Jones' last tonal innovations. It would seem that it was designed as a small-scale version of the Tuba Sonora, which first appeared in Hope-Jones' organs in around 1894.

The first recorded mention of the Tuba Horn appears to date from 1908, in the planned specification for the organ at the Auditorium, Ocean Grove, New Jersey. However, this rank was not amongst the twelve (of the scheduled eighteen) ranks which were installed for the organ's opening. The Tuba Horn appeared in the November, 1908, "Schedule of Prices for the Hope-Jones Organ Company" in which a Tuba Horn 16ft (and up) cost $800, as opposed to $1,000 for an ordinary Tuba.

The Tuba Horn was winded from its own regulator, and would have been voiced on either 12" or 15" wind pressure, the latter being the more common.

Diaphonic Diapason

A large-scale Open Diapason, with leather strips over the upper lips of the pipe mouths. Truly diaphonic only in its lowest (16ft) octave which comprised twelve diaphones with metal resonators. The form of diaphone used in Wurlitzer organs after the death of Hope-Jones was the valvular reed type, which he had patented in 1897 (UK Patent 21389 dated 17 September, 1897). This rank would have been, like the rest of the organ, apart from the Vox and Tuba Horn, voiced on 10" wind.

 

Basic features of the valvular reed Diaphone, from "Robert Hope-Jones", David H Fox, p. 132.

 

Clarinet

A "colour" reed, which on Wurlitzer organs was usually quite a successful imitation of its orchestral namesake.

 

Salicional and Viol Céleste

The Salicional was the favoured string rank on the smallest Wurlitzer organs, but was usually replaced by the keener Viol d'Orchestre or Violin in organs of this size. No doubt the choice of the Salicional contributed to the restful sound this organ is reputed to have possessed. An interesting feature common to Wurlitzer organs is the Pedal Cello, which draws both the string and the célesting rank, giving a remarkably realistic cello sound in orchestral music.

 

 

 

 

 

Flute

This rank was often labelled "Concert Flute" on Wurlitzer organs. It is a medium-scale open wood flute with inverted mouth (Hohl Flute), giving a delightfully clear tone. From Tenor C down, the pipes were of stopped wood, with an octave extension to form a Bourdon. The rank was extended upwards two octaves (open metal pipes in the extreme trebles) to provide 4' and 2' pitches as well as Twelfth and Tierce effects. There were no pipes for the top four notes of the Tierce.

 

 

 

Vox Humana

Quarter-length capped reed pipes, whose volume could be adjusted by rotating the caps to open up more or less of apertures near the tops of the pipes. Wurlitzer Voxes were almost (but not quite) universally voiced on 6in. wind, and could produce an ethereal whispering sound which added considerable depth to the string tones.

 

 

Both manuals and the pedal-board were fitted with second-touch. Stops set on second-touch could only be sounded by pressing harder on the keys, which would then drop further, activating a second set of contacts. In this way a solo could be played on, say, the accompaniment manual using the Tuba Horn on second touch, with a string accompaniment on the same manual, leaving the other hand free to provide an embellishment on Flute or perhaps Glockenspiel, on the solo manual.

 

Organists at the Wintergarden

 

Although it may seem a little odd today, it was normal practice in the 1920s for Wurlitzer organs imported from America to be accompanied by American organists to play them for an initial period, during which time they would train Australian organists to take over. This was part of the contact agreement with the Wurlitzer company, who were keen to ensure that their product was introduced to audiences and to theatre circuits by organists who were fully proficient and able to exploit fully their many capabilities. In some cases, like the Wintergarden, several American organists were featured before an Australian organist took over. A number of other organs opened with an American feature organist and an Australian assistant organist, who later took over as chief organist.

Little is known of Byron Hopper, who was followed at the console in 1925 by Leslie V. Harvey, from the California Theatre, San Francisco, USA, who then exchanged consoles with Eddie Horton at the Prince Edward Theatre, Sydney, on 12 October, 1925. When Harvey arrived at the Prince Edward, his performance accompanying the Douglas Fairbanks film The Thief of Baghdad was reviewed as follows:

"His is of a more robust personality than the mercurial Eddie Horton, and his playing of the Consol {sic} organ is more staid. Possibly he was a little nervous on his opening despite a liberal welcome from the crowded house, but since the said Eddie was tremendously popular, the new man starts with a handicap. The indications are that this will not worry him and ere long he will rival his predecessor in popularity. His accompaniment to some of the screening was more than adequate, in that it suggested the moods of the creator, and greatly assisted the illusion."

Leslie Harvey made a number of 78 r.p.m. recordings of light piano music while he was in Australia. He also made a couple of recordings at the Christie organ of the Victory Theatre, Kogarah. In 1929 he opened the Christie organ of the Empire, Dunedin, New Zealand.

 

Eddie Horton played several organs in theatres in Australia and New Zealand, and was immensely popular. He was also something of a "character", despite his youth. He had been a theatre organist from the start of the instrument's popularity in America, and had also cut many "Picturolls" used on photoplayers for silent film "moods". It is thus possible that his playing had already been heard, even if unknowingly, in Brisbane by audiences at the Majestic Theatre, where a photoplayer was installed; it is even possible his rolls might have been used on the player unit at the Wintergarden itself. He stayed at the Wintergarden for only a short period, as he left for Sydney, where he opened the ten-rank Wurlitzer at the Arcadia Theatre, Chatswood, in February, 1926.

 

From opening programme, Prince Edward Theatre, Sydney

 

Next at the Wintergarden console was Rita Henderson, who is believed to have remained there until 1929.

A Wurlitzer advertisement issued in the winter of 1929 includes a picture of A O North as organist at the Wintergarden. The exact dates of his engagement are not known.

 

 

On 25 January, 1930, Joseph Wayne, from the King's Cross Theatre, Darlinghurst, Sydney (ten-rank Wurlitzer), was appointed organist, his first show being entitled "Songs Dad used to Sing". It was Wayne who initiated audience sing-a-longs at the Wintergarden. He had come to Australia two years previously to open the King's Cross organ, from the Film Arte Theatre in Los Angeles. He had been a pioneer American theatre organist who had started his career as early as 1913, and had since worked mainly for the prestigious Balaban and Katz circuit (he was the first organist contracted to them), mostly in Detroit. Whilst at King's Cross, where he had been billed as "Wurlitzer Wizard", he had made a number of 78 r.p.m. gramophone recordings, amongst the first cut on theatre organs in Australia:

"Joseph Wayne, Wurlitzer Wizard, from U.S.A., made his Australian début at the console at King's Cross Theatre, Sydney, last Saturday, and lived right up to his advance publicity. In his novelty numbers, accompanied by song slides, Wayne had the Wur-litzer fairly singing, while his accompaniments to the pictures and his playing in concert with E.J. Roberts' orchestra, placed him high among the top-notchers."

 

Charles Webb, from the Capitol, Sydney (fifteen-rank Wurlitzer), followed, in late 1930.  

 

 

 

In December, 1931, came Queenslander Ellie Jones, whose playing, according to historian Gordon Berry "was always spectacular". She remained until 1935, when use of the organ was discontinued.

"Once when Ellie Jones was seated at the console of the Wurlitzer, up came a huge bunch of ostrich feathers, draped like a fan behind the back of the organ console, with lights and the Bren-ograph changing colours. It sure looked effective."

During the period when Ellie Jones was organist, the console was relocated in the centre of the orchestra pit (the orchestra was disbanded in 1932, and the roll-player console had long fallen out of use). After she left, the organ was silent, its console stored in the Irish Club building in Elizabeth Street, until it was sold and removed to the Plaza, Sydney in approximately 1937. After many travels, it now forms the nucleus of TOSA(SA)'s 4/29 organ at the Capri, Goodwood, Adelaide

The roll-player appears to have been sold to the Brisbane organ-building company of Whitehouse, who maintained the Wintergarden organ. The unit was equipped with stopkeys as it used ordinary player-piano rolls, which did not control the stops. It would seem that some of these stopkeys were used by Whitehouse in the organ for the Church of England Grammar School in East Brisbane. When that organ was removed in 1976, it went to Sydney and by strange coincidence some of these stopkeys were sold to the then owner of the console of the Wintergarden organ and added to it.

"Strange as it may seem, many patrons preferred the Wintergarden organ to the big 15 rank 3 manual Wurlitzer up the street at the Regent. Both organs could be heard in Elizabeth Street, and each had its own characteristics. The Wintergarden had sweet and round tone, decidedly more pleasant to listen to - the voicing was different. What improved the tonal quality was the acoustics of the Wintergarden and the placement of the installation."

 

The Wintergarden in the 1930s, after the organ had been removed

Photo: Ross Thorne - "Picture Palace Architecture in Australia

 

Wintergarden exterior, 1964

Photo: Harry Greaves

The Wintergarden auditorium in its final years as a theatre

(photos by courtesy of Warren White)

 

The Wintergarden continued in use as a cinema until December, 1973, then ended its days with its foyer first as a shop, then a bank, its auditorium unused except for a period while the Regent theatre was rebuilt and some of that theatre's equipment was stored there. It was demolished in 1981. Its site and name were incorporated in the Wintergarden Centre.

 Exterior in 1975 (above) and 1979 (below)

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