Permanent exhibit on Moller Organ Co. opens at Discovery Station

April 24, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • Cutting the ribbon on the new Moller Organ Co. exhibit at Discovery Station in Hagerstown are, from left, Mary Ward, Edwin Benchoff, Daisy Wolfensburger, Ellis Duffey, Jack Myers, and Joe Penner. Holding the ribbon at right is Allen Swope.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — The history and local impact of the Moller Organ Co., which built pipe organs in Hagerstown for more than 100 years, can now be traced at the Discovery Station in the city.

“This is an indelible part of Hagerstown that is irreplaceable,” said Williamsport resident Allen Swope, co-chairman of the Moller Historic Organ Exhibit, during a ceremony Tuesday at the Discovery Station at 101 W. Washington St. “This is the legacy M.P. Moller has left.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at noon to unveil the exhibit, which recognizes what once was one of the largest pipe-organ manufacturers in the world.

Mathias Peter Moller, the company’s founder, moved the business from Greencastle, Pa., to Hagerstown in 1880, where the factory operated until it closed in 1992.

Swope, 75, worked for the company from 1955 to 1963.

“It was the love of my life,” he said. “When it closed, it broke my heart to see such a hands-on thing disappear.”

Members of the Washington County Board of Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council, as well as city Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, attended the ceremony along with former employees and local residents.

William Penner, 95, of Hagerstown, who was with the company from 1935 to 1992, worked with Moller.

“Mr. Moller was a very kind man and very demanding,” he said. “I was in engineering at one point, and he was very involved in the factory.”

After retiring in 1985, Penner worked as a consultant for the company until it closed.

The exhibit includes organ pipes manufactured at Moller and tools used to make the organ pipes. It documents the history of the company, as well as of M.P. Moller, who was born in Bornholm, Denmark, in 1854, moved to the United States in 1872 and died in 1937.

Moller Organ Co. in Hagerstown operated out of a plant on Potomac Avenue, but it burned in 1895. After that, it operated out of 403 N. Prospect St. until it closed. A section of the building was damaged in a fire in 2011.

Bruchey said the exhibit is about Moller the person, as well as the impact of the company.

“We’re talking about a man who came from nothing, an immigrant, and built the world’s best-known organ,” Bruchey said. “It’s the American Dream.”

Moller also was instrumental in establishing the Dagmar Hotel and introduced the Dagmar car.

“Moller was very instrumental in getting Hagerstown on the map,” Bruchey said. “People on my wife’s side of the family worked for the Moller Organ Co., and they were devastated when it closed.”

On display at the exhibit is a chandelier organ, one of only two ever made, according to B. Marie Byers, president of the Discovery Station.

Vincent Groh of Hagerstown owns the organ, which he said he bought in an auction for $18,000 after the company closed in 1992.

“It’s nice that the community can see this part of history,” said Groh, 75.

The exhibit is permanent, according to Byers, who said work began on it in April 2010. The museum was given a $15,000 grant from the Mary K. Bowman Trust to help pay for it, and Ellsworth Electric contributed $2,500 for electrical work in the room.

Byers said the exhibit represents everything the museum stands for.

“The three missions for the Discovery Station are history, science, and technology,” she said. “The whole mechanism of a pipe organ, is science, so it fit into the mission completely.”

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