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Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama


Another chapter in the historic bombing of Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church has come to a close with the completed six-year restoration of the church's pipe organ. It is hoped that the reborn organ will both serve the congregation and the larger community including the tens of thousands of yearly tourists visiting the historic church and nearby Civil Rights Institute.

In 1912, the organ became the first installed in an African-American congregation in the City of Birmingham. Marian Anderson, among others, performed recitals accompanied by the instrument. The infamous September 15, 1963 bombing which took the lives of four little girls severely damaged the organ. Repairs were made to the organ restoring the congregation's ability to use it in worship, although the full instrument was not operational at that time.

Scope Of The Restoration Project

In 1992, A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company began work to restore the organ to its full glory. The restoration included: restoring the large stenciled facade pipes in their stunning rose, gold and ivory patterns; replacing chest actions; adding seven ranks of pipes and revoicing 13 others; replacing obsolete and damaged relays with Peterson solid-state electronic switching; and adding computer-age MIDI capabilities to the instrument which will allow it to play a full range of complex and more contemporary musical compositions. A.E. Schleuter III, Vice President of A.E. Schleuter Pipe Organ Company reports that his firm spent more than 4500 hours on this restoration.


A special organ recital is being planned for the 36th Memorial Observance of the church bombing in September of next year. Additional community concerts with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, among others, are also being planned for 1999.

Dr. Christopher Hamlin, Pastor of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church explains, "Because Sixteenth Street Baptist Church had always accepted its role of being a community church, it is our desire to be better able to provide opportunities for more cultural events in our historic facility. The completion of the pipe organ will serve to enhance these opportunities while continuing our historic legacy in downtown Birmingham."

The A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company has been restoring, rebuilding, building, and maintaining authentic pipe organs since its establishment in 1973.

For more information, please contact the Reverend Dr. Christopher M. Hamlin, Pastor Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, (205) 251 - 9402 or via email cmhaml@aol.com

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