A Saskatoon church has applied to have a broken historical organ removed from the building and placed in a museum, as they don’t have the funds for repairs.
The 1913 Casavant organ inside the former Third Avenue United Church, now known as the St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church is considered a historical asset and cannot be moved under the Municipal Heritage Property Designation set by the City of Saskatoon.
It has gone through two major repairs in its lifetime — once in the 1950s and again in the 1980s — and would need to undergo expensive repairs once again to be used.
“When it is simply turned on, a single pipe loudly plays, and can only be turned off by climbing into the bowels of the pipes and turning it off manually. The console is old and slowly degrading, and when it stops working the organ cannot be played,” Father Herman Fields wrote in a letter to the city.
A letter from the church to the city claimed the organ would cost $1 to $2 million to restore it to a usable state but said they haven’t had a quote in the last eight years.
Fields said all fundraising and budget money needs to be used for the building mortgage, maintenance and upkeep.
The church argued that since the organ has been overhauled several times already, very few parts of the 1913 organ are left.
The group argued the instrument can no longer be considered the ‘original’ organ and a heritage item.
Peggy Sarjeant with the Saskatoon Heritage Society said the organ is of cultural significance to the organization and is considered an integral feature of the inside of the building.
“The congregation was always aware that the organ was a designated feature of the building and promised to make it available to be played on occasion,” Sarjeant said.
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The Heritage Society asked for any decisions about the organ to be delayed until more discussion can be had about expenses and available options.
“To agree to the request would set an unfortunate precedent on compromising integrity of the Heritage Designation process.”
City Administration recommended that the church’s request be allowed, and the organ be moved out of the building to a museum or a similar institution.
The report will be forwarded to the city’s standing policy committee for consideration.
Touring historic downtown with the Saskatoon Heritage Society
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