Spreckels Outdoor Organ Balboa Park


Spreckels Organ Pavilion

1549 El Prado # 10
San Diego, CA
(619) 702-8138
Free Admission

 John D. and Adolph Spreckels donated the Spreckels Organ, one of the world's largest outdoor pipe organs, to the City of San Diego in 1914 for the Panama-California Exposition. This unique organ contains 4,530 pipes ranging in length from the size of a pencil to 32 feet and is housed in an ornate vaulted structure with highly embellished gables.

The Kotzschmar Memorial Organ in Portland, Maine was the second-largest organ in the world when it was built in 1911, and is one of only two surviving  municipal organs in the U.S."”the other being the Spreckels Organ in San Diego, California.

Built by Austin Organs, Inc. as their Opus #453. It has 73 ranks totaling 4518 pipes and faces north. The audience therefore faces south. A roll-up steel curtain protects the Organ from sun and rain whenever it is not being played in concerts.

 John D. Spreckels, son of sugar magnate Claus Spreckels, decided to move to Coronado, California after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He became one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in San Diego County. Spreckels' gifts to San Diego and Coronado were many. He particularly wanted the Panama-California Exposition to succeed and show San Diego to the world in a good light, so he contributed to and promoted the Exposition. He and his brother Adolph B. Spreckels gave the organ pavilion as a gift to  the people of San Diego and all the world. They donated $33,500 for the Organ and $66,500 for the Pavilion. John D. Spreckels also donated the services of organ tuner Dr. Humphrey J. Stewart for the two-year run of the Exposition. After the Exposition Spreckels extended Stewart's contract. Spreckels chose Harrison Albright to design the Organ Pavilion. Albright was a self-taught Los Angeles architect, who previously designed the U. S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The semi-circular pavilion was built in an ornate Italian-Renaissance design. The organ was dedicated December 31, 1914. When Spreckels died in 1926, the pavilion was used for his memorial service.  During the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition the stage size was doubled and a fountain added. The fountain can be lit at night and is modeled after one in Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. In 1981 the pavilion was restored and in 2002 the organ was expanded from 3,400 to 4,518 pipes.

Since 1917, San Diego has had a civic organist, who performs free weekly Sunday concerts at 2 p.m. Dr. Carol Williams has been the San Diego Civic Organist and Artistic Director of the Spreckels Organ Society in San Diego, California since 2001.

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