Organs of the Ohs Fiftieth Anniversary: Round Lake Auditorium and Its Organ Davis & Ferris (1847) Round Lake, New York

By Pinel, Stephen L. | The American Organist, April 2006 | Go to article overview
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Organs of the Ohs Fiftieth Anniversary: Round Lake Auditorium and Its Organ Davis & Ferris (1847) Round Lake, New York


Pinel, Stephen L., The American Organist


Beginning with the February issue of THE AMERICAN ORGANIST, a series of five articles will focus on the organs of the 50th anniversary convention of the Organ Historical Society. The conference, scheduled to run between June 25 and 30 in Saratoga Springs. New York, is unique for the number of unaltered (or nearly unaltered) instruments. The 1847 three-manual Davis & Ferris organ in Round Lake Auditorium, Round Lake, New York, will be featured on Sunday evening.

The Village of Round Lake and the Auditorium

After visiting Martha's Vineyard during the summer of 1867, Joseph Hillman (182390), an insurance broker and prominent churchman, decided that the Troy Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church ought to have a campground of its own. Enlisting the moral and financial support of his colleagues. Hillman selected a site along the Saratoga-Rensselaer Railroad, just west of the shore of Round Lake. Impressed by the groves of pines, rich soil, and general peace of the setting, he purchased 40 acres in April 1868 from Rice Hall and John Moore, two local farmers. On May 1,1868, the Round Lake Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the Troy Conference was incorporated by the New York State Legislature. Round Lake is known today for its concentration of Victorian architecture and unique street arrangement. Laid out like the spokes of a wheel, all roads point inwards toward the spiritual, focal, and architectural center of the village-the Round Lake Auditorium.

On September 1, 1868, the first ten-day camp meeting attracted 8,000 people. The following year, a few cottages were erected, and by 1871, 20,000 tent dwellers attended the National Holiness Camp Meeting. Larger buildings followed, including the Hotel Wentworth (1878) with 60 rooms, the Hotel Orient (1880) with 70, Alumni Hall (1884, still standing), the Griffin Institute (1886), the George West Museum (1887), Burnham House (1888), Garnsey and Kennedy halls (both 1886), and the Arcade (1888). In 1889, the Round Lake Summer Institute was granted a provisional charter by the Regents Department of the University of the State of New York. For the next three decades, the village thrived with significant arts and educational programs that brought thousands of summer visitors to the village annually.

With several devastating fires, particularly the one of July 11, 1921, when the Arcade and 17 cottages burned, the razing of many of the larger structures during the 1930s, and with the eventual cessation of most summer activities, the village fell on hard times economically. Residents attempted to dissolve the original Articles of Incorporation in favor of another form of government. This was successful in 1969, when Round Lake became a village in the Town of Malta, governed by a mayor and board of trustees. Because of its history, Round Lake is on the National Register.

The Auditorium began in 1876 when canvas was stretched over a wooden frame to protect the faithful from the elements. A 600pound bell was hung at the front near a preacher's stand. In 1884. an 80 ? 140 ft. wooden building was erected costing $3,125. It was dedicated on July 10, 1885, with the Rev. John P. Newman, DD. officiating; congregants sat on wooden benches. During the winter, canvas flaps rolled down over the sides of the building to keep out snow and ice. In 1887, the front of the structure was completed with a set of nine risers, six stained-glass windows, and a raised platform for the organ. In 1912, the building took the form it has today: permanent seats were installed and the sides were enclosed with windows. There have been renovation successes in recent decades, mostly spearheaded by Edna I. Van Duzee Walter and Norman Walter. A great effort was accomplished in 2005, when the foundation under the front-end of the building (and the organ) was stabilized and restored.

The 1847 Organ by Davis & Ferris

New York, July 17th, 1852

[Vestry of Trinity Church, New York]

I would like you to hear and see my Organ at Calvary Church any afternoon you might name.

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