The organ of Saint Mary Church was built by George Jardine and Sons, an organ-building firm from New York City. George Jardine (1800-1882) was a British barrel organ maker who immigrated to the United States in the early 1830s to establish his shop in New York City. Although there wasn’t a market for barrel organs (think player piano but with organ pipes) in the states, his firm met with great success in constructing church and concert hall organs and soon became the second largest organ-building house in the city, right after his primary competitor, Henry Erban.
In 1855, George’s son, Edward, joined the firm and apprenticed under his father. Edward took control of the firm in 1871, and with the help of his brothers, brought the shop to new heights. George Jardine retired completely from the business in 1880. It was under Edward’s direction and guidance that the Saint Mary Church organ was built and installed. The organ was first played on November 4, 1883, most likely by Edward, who, himself, was also an organist.
The instrument, completely mechanical action (a “tracker”), was originally supplied with air by means of a hand-pump bellows mechanism. In the 1930s, the mechanism was replaced with an electric blower, which is still in current use. No other mechanical changes to the instrument were made, making it currently one of few existing Jardine organs still in use. When the firm closed its doors in the early 1900s, it had built approximately 1300 organs in the United States and Mexico. Currently, there are less than 100 left in the world.
The overall tonal design of the instrument is reflective of American organ building of the 19th century. The great division includes a well-voiced 16’ principal, and a 4’ Harmonic Flute, typical of instruments from the Jardine firm. It is said that George Jardine was greatly influenced by his contemporary French counterparts, among them Aristide Cavaille-Cole. As such, the principals have wide scales, giving the organ a marvelously warm and enveloping quality. Two 2’ stops and a 4-rank mixture add clarity and brilliance to the ensemble.
The organ accompanies weekly church services and is used for concerts and recitals many times throughout the year.