How Portland got such a big organ

This Week in Portland History is bringing to light a person or event from the city’s past.

“A steady winter wind was blowing that night in January 1908. The temperature was 17 degrees and falling, making it a particularly bad night for City Hall to burn down.

But it did, to the ground.

It was a total disaster. In the end, there wasn’t much left except a few smoking walls. The total loss was worth $600,000. Unfortunately, the building was only insured for $80,000. The previous City Hall burned in the great fire of 1866, only 42 years before. Portland once again had to live up to its “resurgum” motto and phoenix mascot — and rise it did.

The new City Hall opened 105 years ago this week, on Aug. 22, 1912. Hidden inside was a treasure, a rare musical jewel, the second largest organ in the world.

The instrument is now known as the mighty Kotzschmar organ. The story behind how it ended up here, in an underinsured city auditorium, starts before the Civil War.”

Troy R. Bennett, Bangor Daily News