The Riverside Theatre 3/14 Wurlitzer
The Riverside Theatre opened as an original Orpheum circuit house on April 29, 1928, with seven Vaudeville acts and a film titled “The Big Noise.” The theatre, designed by architects Kirchoff and Rose, is of modified French style and is part of a 12-story downtown office building known as the Empire Building. Located on the west bank of the Milwaukee River, it quickly became the showplace of Milwaukee, with 2,500 seats and excellent acoustics. It continued through the 1940s as a performance venue with big bands and featured entertainers, and through the 1950s as a first-run movie house. The organ was regularly used into the 1950s.
The Dairyland Theatre Organ Society began restoration of the organ in 1980, repairing much water damage from a leaky roof, and ordinary wear and tear after years of use. The theatre, which was also in poor condition and relegated to showing “Kung Fu” films to audiences of mere handfuls, went dark on Labor Day of 1982. With the advent of the "multiplex cinema" in suburban areas, the days of the downtown movie palace were over. However, the owners of the building of which the theatre is an integral part decided to refurbish the Riverside in 1983, and return it to a live performance house. The Riverside reopened on November 2, 1984. At that time, in appreciation for their hard work in preserving and maintaining the organ and the building, as well as raising awareness about the theatre's condition and value to the community, the organ was gifted to the Dairyland Theatre Organ Society.
The Riverside 3/14 Wurlitzer is the original Style 240, Opus 1865, installed for the theatre’s opening in 1928. Originally 13 ranks, a Trivo Post Horn and a Barton 16' Tibia extension were added. Through the interfacing of the electro-pneumatic Wurlitzer relay from the Sheboygan Theatre, the unification was also increased to allow for a more flexible specification.
In recent years, the Riverside Wurlitzer has become a central feature of the theatre's participation in the annual "Doors Open Milwaukee" event. Doors Open Milwaukee allows citizens to tour many of Milwaukee historic buildings, and offers access to areas not often accessible to the public. Depending on the theatre's schedule, the Riverside is normally open one or both days of Doors Open Weekend, and in 2016, the Wurlitzer was heard by over 2,000 people! The 2017 event was also a great success, though the Riverside was only open on one of the two days. Guided tours of the pipe chambers and blower room are offered, and it is a thrill for DTOS to be able to present this wonderful organ in such an accessible way, offering everyone a chance to experience a theatre pipe organ in its natural environment! The look of thrill on the faces of children and adults alike speaks for itself!
16' Concert Flute
16' Diaphonic Diapason
16' Tibia Clausa
16' Harmonic Tuba
English (Post) Horn
Toy Coutner & Traps