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Castro Theater's Famous Mighty Wurlitzer Needs Funds & Your Help

Castro Theatre Organist
By Waiyde Palmer - Published on March 27, 2013.
Castro Theatre's organ rising from the pit to entertain the film going troops. Photo: Flickr Olive Witch
Castro Theatre's organ rising from the pit to entertain the film going troops. Photo: Flickr Olive Witch
The SF Chronicle clued us in that over at Castro Theatre, the City's last single screen movie house, the Mighty Wurlizter that's risen from the pit to entertain film goers for generations is in jeopardy and it's organists has started a fundraising non-profit to help it stay put and expand its scope. According to organist, David Hegarty, whose been belting out the signature song 'San Francisco' atop the bench perched in front of the pedals and keys of the giant music box for the last 30 years, the cultural icon is in deep peril. He revealed the organ is actually not even owned by the Castro Theatre but a separate individual who's getting ready to move away from the Bay Area and take the beloved musical instrument with them or find a buyer and sell it outright.
The Mighty Wurlitzer
The Mighty Wurlitzer
On top of that potential tragedy the organ needs a complete overhaul and an expansion to keep up with the demands of a 21st century audience. That augmentation plan includes adding surround sound speakers, more pipes, and enlarge the keyboard console. Once completed the face lift will raise the bar on the level of sound the organ produces to a orchestra level instrument attracting greater attention the world over. The monetary fundraising goal needed to keep our neighborhoods infamous organ in place is a million bucks. Mr. Hegarty has secured the needed 501(c)3 permit and established a non-profit group, SFCODA, to manage and fundraise on the Wurlitzer's behalf. That is some fat cash-especially in these slowly recovering economic times-but the City and the neighborhood will hopefully meet the challenge. It would be a true tragedy to lose the organ from the Castro Theatre where it's been since it arrived in the early 70's from Detroit where it'd been constructed to entertain at the old State Theatre prior to being razed.
The Castro Theatre circa 1923-a year after the Art Deco masterpiece opened.
The Castro Theatre circa 1923-a year after the Art Deco masterpiece opened.
Our heritage as a City is constantly under the strain to remodel and discard. We nearly lost the treasured Maxfield Parrish painting, 'Pied Piper', this last week from its perch above the Palace Hotel bar where it's watched over City patrons for the last 103 years as they celebrated victories and drowned their sorrows. As new owners, developers and emigrants arrive in SF with less interest in its history and preservation we will see more and more of what makes the City the 'City' be chipped away by NIMBY attitudes and beliefs. The battle to save the Castro's Wurlitzer is worth the money. Click the link. Spread the word. We hope never to arrive at the Castro Theatre, popcorn in hand, ready to enjoy the melodic strains of show tunes and classical ballads only to be told that this was the day the music finally died.
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