The Douglas Era Mansion: 1906-1937
Irene Douglas contracted Ernest M. Skinner to build Opus 754 in 1929 for $13,675.13. She joined Andrew Carnegie, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and John D. Rockefeller as owners of residential organs. Brucemore's instrument is one of only 92 residential organs ever constructed by the Skinner Organ Company and one of only six that remain unaltered and in situ.
A residential player organ was the ultimate home entertainment system of the 1920s. While Irene could hire local musicians to perform for her guests, the player function of Opus 754 allowed her to enjoy music and entertain at the push of a button. Organ rolls, often recorded by preeminent musicians, took full advantage of the many voices of the organ, effortlessly performing operas, symphonies, and popular songs. Brucemore's archives contain approximately 100 rolls, including Richard Wagner’s opera Ring of the Nibelung, which is depicted in the mural encircling the Great Hall.
The Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Massachusetts, was the foremost name in organ building during the early- to mid-twentieth century. E. M. Skinner established his company in 1901, building modern organs with a complex, orchestral sound. By the end of World War I, Skinner built close to 200 organs and received commissions from prestigious locations like the Cathedral of Saint John of the Divine in New York City. Skinner organs produced from 1927 to 1933 are widely regarded as the company's best work.
Today, Cedar Rapids is home to three operating Skinner organs, a claim few other cities can make. In addition to Brucemore, Skinner organs reside at Coe College and St. Mark's Lutheran Church.