Pipe Organ at James J. Hill House Chosen to Compete for $1 Million in Preservation Funding

For immediate release

Release dated: 
September 20, 2011
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Jessica Kohen
Marketing and Communications

Lory Sutton
Marketing and Communications

Craig Johnson
James J. Hill House

Pipe Organ at James J. Hill House Chosen to Compete for $1 Million in Preservation Funding

Month-long voting on Facebook starts today

American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced today that the James J. Hill House pipe organ restoration project has been chosen to participate in the 2011 Partners in Preservation program. As one of only 25 historic projects selected, the James J. Hill House will compete in a month-long Facebook contest that invites the Twin Cities community to cast votes for local historic projects they would like to see receive funding.

Votes in support of the James J. Hill House pipe organ project can be cast at www.Facebook.com/PartnersinPreservation from Sept. 20, 2011 through Oct. 12, 2011.

Participants may vote once daily. The site that receives the highest number of popular votes is guaranteed to receive funding. At the end of the voting period, American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a special Advisory Committee comprised of Twin Cities civic and preservation leaders will review the public’s vote along with each site’s preservation needs to determine how the remaining $1 million in preservation grants will be awarded.

An announcement of the popular winner will be made on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011.

James J. Hill House Pipe Organ
The 1891 pipe organ located in the art gallery of the Hill House is in need of restoration. Renowned Boston organ-maker, George Hutchings, created the three storey pipe organ when the Hill family first moved into their new Summit Avenue mansion in 1891. The instrument is a mechanical action tracker organ with 17 ranks and 1,006 pipes—a particularly distinguished example of a residential pipe organ of America’s Gilded Age. The organ was used for family gatherings, concerts and parties. Four of the Hill daughters were married in the house at different times and Hill’s funeral took place there in 1916. Early concerts hosted by St. Paul’s Schubert Club made use of the pipe organ.

pipe organ

Pipe Organ

(Pipe organ, 1891; Pipe organ, today)

While the organ remains beautiful to behold, it has deteriorated significantly over the decades. The windchests are defective, pipes are cracked, and interior leather elements badly need replacement. The pipe organ must be carefully taken apart and its inner workings restored or replaced. Then once again it can be properly heard in its glory. 

The James J. Hill House is seeking enough votes in the Partners in Preservation competition to be awarded the full $50,000 needed to restore the pipe organ. Work will take place over the next year and completion is expected by December 2012.

Open House: Oct. 8-9, 2011, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday
The public is invited to visit the James J. Hill House art gallery to view the historic pipe organ free of charge during an Open House on Oct. 8 and 9. In addition to the art gallery, guests can explore the Music Room, Drawing Room and Hallway, used by the Hills for entertaining. Visitors can also see a photography display on the Hill family and the construction of their Summit Avenue mansion, enjoy a short video on James J. Hill, and view the current art exhibit, “76 Faces of the First.” Guest organists will demonstrate the pipe organ throughout the weekend. Guides will be on hand to help explain the voting process for Partners in Preservation to visitors. Regular tours of the house will be available both days at normal rates.

During the voting period, Hill House visitors can enter to win a private tour of the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections for up to 10 people, plus free History Center admission. The 90-minute collections tour includes access to areas not normally open to the public including artifact storage and conservation labs.  

The James J. Hill House is open for tours Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 3:30 p.m. Cost is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and college students, $5 for children ages 6 to 17 and $2 for admission to the art gallery only. Reservations are recommended. For more information, call 651-297-2555.

About Partners in Preservation
In 2010, American Express, partnering with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, pledged $10 million over a five-year period toward preserving historic places throughout the United States. American Express has already allocated more than $5.5 million in preservation grants over the past five years, which has allowed recipients to make significant progress in achieving their preservation goals. Through this partnership, American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation seek to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of historic preservation in the United States and to preserve American’s historic and cultural places. The program also seeks to inspire long-term support from local citizens for the historic sites at the heart of their communities.

About American Express
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, twitter.com/americanexpress and youtube.com/americanexpress.

About the Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849 to preserve and share Minnesota history. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. For more information, visit www.mnhs.org.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.