Restored Palace organ returns

The mammoth Palace Theatre in downtown Youngstown closed in 1964.



It took more than 10 years

and many travels across the country, but Vic Marsilio has preserved a piece of Youngstown’s history.

Marsilio of Victor Organ, Austintown, has restored the Wurlitzer pipe organ that was used at the Keith-Albee Palace Theatre in Youngstown.

The mammoth organ is on display at C&C Ribbon, a South Avenue ribbon and floral shop in Boardman.

“It’s a piece of Youngstown history that’s here for people to enjoy,” Marsilio said.

In December 1925, the New York organ company shipped the instrument to the theater. The theater closed in 1964, and the organ’s components had many homes before Marsilio bought and restored it.

Marsilio, a certified organ builder and an organist, replaced parts that had been destroyed or damaged beyond restoration with identical original components.

That endeavor took him throughout the country. The farthest he traveled was Vancouver, Wash. Parts too large or too numerous to transport in his pick-up truck, he had shipped.

The mahogany facade he built onto the organ was constructed in 1902 for a California home. It was displayed at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It was then sold to Wirsching Pipe Organ Co., Alliance, which incorporated it into construction of a pipe organ for the former Grace Lutheran Church.

Marsilio initially planned to keep the organ in his shop, the former Austintown fire station on Mahoning Avenue. He bemoaned, though, that more people wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.

“So many wonderful things from Youngstown have disappeared,” he said.

The Idora Park carousel, for example, is in New York, and pipe organs from other former downtown theaters are in other cities.

His friend, Joyce Ciarniello, owner of C&C, told him that if he wanted to display the organ in her shop, she’d build an addition for it.

“I’ve always liked music and because of our friendship, I’ve developed an appreciation of pipe organs,” Ciarniello said. “I’ve always liked history and historic preservation.”

Those interests combined to prompt her to construct the building to house the instrument. The chamber is 12-by-20-feet.

Her customers seem to enjoy it, too. At an open house last month, couples who met at the theater, ushers who worked there and others who remember going there as children came to relive and reminisce about those times, Marsilio said.

“The Palace was the theater in Youngstown,” he said.

It may be played manually, but Marsilio designed it to play automatically, too.

The Wurlitzer organ, like all theater organs, provides music of xylophones, flutes, trumpets and violins as well as sound effects such as door bells, police sirens and horses’ hooves.

It includes 644 pipes, ranging from pencil-sized to 16 feet tall and 250 pounds.

While it took him more than 10 years in his spare time between other jobs, Marsilio considers it a labor of love.

“I liked building it as much as I like playing it,” he said. “It’s kind of like an artist who finishes a painting and then sits back and admires it.”

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