“In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things.” – From the Second Vatican Council’s decree Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 116

Few churches can boast of housing two historic organs the caliber of those at St. Mary’s. Both have been awarded citations from the Organ Historical Society, and remain in exceptional condition and regular use.

An advertisement in German for the Barckhoff Church Organ Company.

The contract for the gallery organ was signed with the Carl Barckhoff Organ Company of Salem, Ohio in 1885. The organ was delivered to the church in 1890 and installation was completed on November 29, 1890. The cost was around $6,000. The new organ was dedicated a week later by Professor Isaac V. Flagler, the organist of First Presbyterian Church in Auburn. “A large and well-drilled chorus under the direction of Sam F. Reynolds rendered appropriate music. In the morning, a Solemn High Mass was sung. The sermon was preached by Father Dougherty.” So reads the bulletin entry of that week!

Around 1957, the whole organ underwent cleaning and repairs. At that time the original large bellows and pump handle were eliminated and replaced with three smaller bellows, one for each of the divisions. New walkboards were installed, many made from remains of the original bellows. The façade pipes were fitted with new tubes to get wind from the Great wind chest. In 1979, A. R. Strauss from Ithaca was contracted to maintain the organ, and through the years performed mechanical work, tonal restoration and regulation.

In May 2017, a complete restoration was completed by Parsons Pipe Organ Builders of Canandaigua, NY. In addition to a total cleaning and repair of all damaged components, the winding system was returned to Carl Barckhoff’s original design, the facade pipes of the Great Open Diapason 16′ were replaced and stenciled with period-appropriate design, the unskilled revoicing undertaken in the mid-twentieth century was undone, the Swell Bourdon 16′ (formerly ending at tenor C) was completed to low C, and a Trombone 16′ of wood from a contemporary Hook organ was added to the pedal, on a double-draw with the Violoncello 8′. In all respects, the restoration aimed to conserve as much of the original material as possible, and to maintain its character as a uniquely intact and healthy specimen of Barckhoff’s work.

The specification is as follows:

Great Organ (unenclosed, fifty-eight notes, C-a, 754 pipes):

  • 16’ Open Diapason
  • 8’ Open Diapason
  • 8’ Doppel Flute
  • 8′ Gamba
  • 8’ Dulciana
  • 4’ Principal
  • 4′ Flute Traverso (harmonic)
  • 3’ Twelfth
  • 2’ Fifteenth
  • Mixture III Ranks
  • 8’ Trumpet

Swell Organ (enclosed, fifty-eight notes, C-a, 696 pipes):


  • 16′ Bourdon
  • 8′ Open Diapason
  • 8′ Geigen Principal
  • 8′ Stopped Diapason
  • 8′ Salicional4′ Fugara
  • 4′ Flute Harmonic
  • 2′ Piccolo
  • Cornet III ranks
  • 8′ Oboe and Bassoon

Pedal Organ (unenclosed, twenty-seven notes, C-d, 135 pipes):

  • 16′ Open Diapason (wood)
  • 16′ Bourdon
  • 8′ Flute (open)
  • 8′ Violoncello (metal, half-draw)
  • 16′ Trombone (ex-Hook, added 2017 on full draw of 8′ Violoncello knob)


  • Swell to Great
  • Tremulant to entire organ
  • Great to Pedal
  • Swell to Pedal
  • 6 combination pistons each to Great and Swell
  • Balanced swell positioned above B2 of the pedalboard

The fixed mechanical-action pistons move the drawknobs at the console, which in turn activate the pneumatic motors which move the sliders. This system is surprisingly fast-acting and versatile, and the registrations set by Barckhoff in 1890 offer the player some indication of how the builder expected the organ to be registered, and how organists were playing in that period. They are set as follows:


  1. 1-full, all stops.
  2. 2-all 16′, 8′, and 4′ flues
  3. 3-all 8′ flues
  4. 4-Trumpet and Open Diapason 8′
  5. 5-Doppel Flute and Gamba
  6. 6-Dulciana 8′ alone


  1. 1-full, all stops
  2. 2-all 16′, 8′, and 4′ flues
  3. 3-all 8′ flues
  4. 4-Oboe and Stopped Diapason
  5. 5-Salicional alone
  6. 6-Stopped Diapason 8′ and Flute Harmonic 4′

It is often noted that the Barckhoff Organ in Saint Mary’s, Auburn is a twin to the Barckhoff Organ in Saint Joseph’s Church, Lancaster, PA. The web site of Saint Joseph’s in Lancaster refers to the Saint Mary’s Organ in Auburn. However, the two organs are not identical twins: some stops are different:

  • St. Mary’s – Sw. Oboe/Bassoon 8’ is the only Swell reed. St. Joseph’s also has a Sw. Cornopean 8’
  • St. Mary’s – Ped. has an additional Flute 8’ which is absent in the St. Joseph’s Organ.
  • St. Mary’s – Gt. Doppleflute 8 is Melodia at St. Joseph’s
  • St. Mary’s –  Sw Open Diapason 8’, Geigen Principal 8’, Salicional 8’ is Open Diapason 8’, Salicional 8’, Aeoline 8’ at St. Joseph’s .

The organ cases are exactly the same, except the ceiling at St. Joseph’s is low enough so that the longest pipe of the central tower has been cut to fit.


When A. Richard Strauss of Ithaca began to maintain the Barckhoff Organ in 1979, St. Mary’s also received its first and former chancel organ, also built by Garrett House, originally for the first Masonic Temple building in Ithaca. When that building was torn down around 1926 and replaced by the present Temple, the Garrett House organ was moved to the converted house which served as the Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) lodge. Organ builder Richard Strauss obtained the organ when the Odd Fellows disbanded, and it served as a “fill in” instrument at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ithaca during construction of that parish’s present organ in 1966-67. The organ had been extensively rebuilt, and was installed temporarily at one or two other locations before coming to the chancel of St. Mary’s in 1979, where it remained until 2006. A concert of music performed by George E. Damp and David Jackson on this organ and the gallery organ is available on the CD Organa Dupla at the parish office.

The current chancel organ at Saint Mary’s was built in 1872 by Garrett House of Buffalo, NY and was first installed in Holy Family Church, Auburn, NY. When Holy Family installed a Tellers organ in 1923, the Garrett House organ eventually ended up at St. Patrick Church, Aurora, NY. Having fallen into a state of considerable physical neglect during the Aurora years, the organ was moved to Community Wesleyan Church, Horseheads, NY in 1977. For the next three years, the organ was lovingly restored by David Fedor, David Jackson and his father Alford Jackson. The restoration work involved the replacement of missing carvings, the refinishing of the case, replacing broken trackers, and constructing a new bench. In 1980, a dedicatory organ recital was given at this site by David Fedor and David Jackson. When a new church sanctuary was being considered for Community Wesleyan Church of Horseheads, the organ was moved by Richard Strauss, with the help of his colleague David Talbot, to First Presbyterian Church, Ithaca, NY in 2003. There it was refurbished (a new blower) and slightly expanded (the previously incomplete ranks of the 4’ flute and the Pedal 16′ had been extended to full-compass). The organ served as the temporary chancel organ, while the main 1969 Austin organ was being reconstituted, and then became the chapel organ until 2006 when it was determined to reuse the chapel space for other purposes.

In 2006, through the efforts of David Correll, then St. Mary’s music director, the 1872 Garrett House organ was moved from First Presbyterian, Ithaca, to the chancel of St. Mary’s Church, where it replaced the 1884 Garrett House organ installed in 1979. The 1884 House organ is now in storage at Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate, Auburn, NY.

The specification of the organ is as follows:

Manual (56 notes, C-g):

  • 8′ Open Diapason (full-compass)
  • 8′ Melodia (TC)
  • 8′ Viol D’Amour (TC)
  • 8′ Stopped Diapason Bass (C1-B12)
  • 4′ Principal4′ Flute
  • 2 2/3′ Twelfth
  • 2′ Fifteenth

Pedal (25 notes, C-c, flat)

  • 16′ Bourdon
  • Manual to Pedal

Tremulant (variable)

The entire organ is enclosed, with the exception of the Pedal Bourdon and the bottom octave of the 8′ Open Diapason (in facade). The vertical shutters of the swell are controlled by a ratchet lever at the far right of the pedalboard, with three notches where the swell can be held between piano and forte.