The KTOS 3/41 Kimball, Oriental Theatre
The Oriental Theatre opened in July of 1927, and operated as a Saxe house. Designed by Dick & Bauer, it incorporated elements of East Indian, Moorish, Islamic, and Byzantine architecture. It was billed as “the most beautiful and artistic temple of Oriental art to be found anywhere in America.” Elaborate detail throughout was evidenced by teakwood timbers, a trio of eight-foot chandeliers, 2,000 yards of silk, and a tiled staircase to the balcony and promenade. Ornate plaster work included over 100 elephants as well as numerous mythological creatures. The theatre opened with 2,310 seats and a well-equipped stage with the then latest lighting control board, by Hub Electric of Chicago. This original lighting control board is still in operation today, much of the restoration work having been accomplished by the Kimball Theatre Organ Society. Opening night featured eight acts, including the dedication of the theatre and an organist taking his turn at the Barton organ. The feature photoplay was Naughty But Nice.
In the mid 1980's, the Oriental was “triplexed” by converting the area under the balcony into two more screens. Fortunately, this modification has had little effect on the acoustics of the auditorium, as half of the main floor and the entire balcony still form a large open area.
The original organ installed in the theatre for its opening was a 3/14 Barton, which was removed in 1959. The large chambers proved to be ideal for the Kimball now in residence.
The 3/28 Kimball, installed for the opening of Milwaukee’s Warner Theatre in 1931 was removed from its original home when the theatre was divided horizontally in 1973, creating upper and lower theatres. The Warner, later known as the Centre and finally the Grand Theatre (located between 2nd and 3rd street on Wisconsin Avenue), operated until 1995, when it became unsustainable as a film venue. It has since been un-twinned, and is currently sitting vacant awaiting restoration.
At the time the Warner was twinned, the organ was donated to the Milwaukee Trade and Technical High School for installation in the school’s auditorium, but it was decided that it would be impossible to fit such a large instrument into the available space. To prevent the sale of the organ, and its departure from Milwaukee, the Kimball Theatre Organ Society (KTOS) was formed in 1979 for the purpose of preserving the instrument. KTOS was successful in acquiring the organ, and determined that the Oriental Theatre on Milwaukee's East Side would be an ideal home. After years of hard work, restoration, and rebuilding, the organ was presented to the public for the first time at the 1991 ATOS Regional Convention. Much of the organ had suffered severe water damage, including the relay, which was not retained. The organ now operates on a Z-Tronics mulitplex system. The original pneumatic combination action and setter boards remain, interfaced with additional Kimball setter boards to facilitate general pistons.
The organ has now grown to 41 ranks, but fits nicely into the theatre’s large chambers. For a more comprehensive history of the Oriental Kimball, please refer to the January/February 2000 issue of Theatre Organ.
While not directly responsible for its care, DTOS enjoys a positive working relationship with KTOS, and is thrilled to be able to collaborate with them on the maintenance and presentation of this magnificent Kimball organ.
16' Tuba Mirabilis
16' Diapason Phonon/Diaphone
16' Tibia Minor
16' Orchestral Oboe/Contra Fagotto
Wald Horn Celeste (TC)
16' Concert Flute Bourdon
Flute Celeste (TC)
Muted Viols II
Vox Humanas II
16' Tuba Horn
16' Open Diapason/Diaphonic Horn
16' Solo Tibia Clausa
Cello Celestes II
16' Violin I
Violin Celestes II
Viola Celestes II
Spitz Flutes II
Vox Humanas II
Wood Bombarde (1-12 of Tuba Mirabilis)
16' Wood Open Diapason
Deagan Tower Chimes