Garden State Theatre Organ Society


Balboa Theatre in San Diego Acquires "Wonder" Morton

This article appeared in the American Theatre Organ Society Web Journal Wednesday, April 09, 2003

One more of the five Wonder Mortons is going to a new home. The 4/23 organ originally installed in the Loew's Valencia Theatre in Jamaica, Queens, New York will be installed in the Balboa Theatre in San Diego.

In 1966, the late Peter Schaeble purchased the organ from the theatre and had it installed in an addition to his Long Island house. After his death in 1996, Jasper Sanfilippo acquired the organ and stored it with the idea of installing it in the carousel building on his properly. This did not come about.

The Balboa Theatre Foundation intends to restore the theatre which once had a smaller Robert Morton organ. That organ was removed in 1931 and installed in another San Diego theatre where it remains today. The Balboa Theatre Foundation has purchased the Wonder Morton from Sanfilippo to install in the restored theatre. The restoration will take about two years.

Only one of the five Wonder Mortons, originally installed in the greater New York area remains in its original location at Loew's United Palace Theatre, 175th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. The one from Loew's Jersey Theatre in Jersey City is now in the Santa Barbara Arlington Theatre. The Morton from Loew's Paradise Theatre in the Bronx is being installed in Loew's Jersey Theatre (where the original home of the Arlington organ). The Morton in Loew's Kings Theatre in Brooklyn was broken up for parts but its restored console is now part of Paul Vandermolen's residence organ near Chicago. Lastly, the organ from Loew's Valencia in Jamaica, Queens is going to be installed in the Balboa Theatre in San Diego.

--Robert Ridgeway Curator of the Sanfilippo Collection

"Copyright 2003, The American Theatre Organ Society, All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission."

More Information

To be in tune with history - Restoration of a rare Wonder Morton Organ is under way for renovated 1924 Balboa Theatre
By Dani Dodge STAFF WRITER - The San Diego Union-Tribune
January 21, 2007

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Alan Ashton
Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 2:51 PM
Subject: [Theatreorgans-L] Robert Morton

Hi everyone,
All this wonderful news about Robert Morton's, I wonder if anyone knows if the one is still in the Pete Schaeble Residence, Rosedale, Long Island, NY. According to the sleeve notes on the only recording I know of that was made on it (Concert Recording CR0038) it came from Loews Valentia(sic) Jamaica, Long island.  Pete I know has passed on and the last I heard was that there was a group who were trying to obtain it.  Is this another of the five 'wonder Mortons' or is this actually the  proposed Balboa instrument?.   

Posting on Theatreorgans-L 1/23/07:

This WAS the Pete Schaeble instrument.  Curt Mangel and I took it apart, crated it, and packed it in a semi-trailer.  The newspaper story was incorrect……it was playing when we dismantled it in 1996 (although Pete had been dead for years and it was acquired by Jasper Sanfilippo from the estate after Pete’s father died) and the trailer was parked INSIDE a large warehouse.  The initial plan was to install the organ in the Carousel Building COMPLETELY ORIGINAL and as a result we removed all the relays, and packed everything.  Ultimately for various reasons we decided not to install the organ and Jasper asked me to find a theatre somewhere in the United States that would appreciate the organ and install it as close to original as possible.  Chris Gorsuch made me aware of the Balboa Theatre project in San Diego and we contacted them and closed the deal.  The only money exchanged was to cover the cost of removal and storage.  The trailer was transported to California to Wendell Shoberg’s restoration shop and purchased since it was more practical to leave the crated items inside it as it was restored.  We specifically requested a used insulated former refrigerated trailer when we first packed the organ on Long Island since we anticipated that the instrument might have to be in it for many years and we wanted it to be protected.

Since this was the flagship model for the Robert Morton company, it was felt from the beginning that it needed to be restored and made available to a large audience.

Robert Ridgeway, Curator
Sanfilippo Collection
Barrington Hills


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