Shea’s Buffalo Theatre will restore its prized Mighty Wurlitzer Organ

When you think about Shea’s Performing Arts Center (PAC), you might not associate it with the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. But that’s about to change, as the theater embarks upon a significant restoration project.

Thanks to a $20,000 grant from The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, supported by the June Farrington Fund, Shea’s Buffalo Theatre is now on its way towards restoring one of the largest and finest Mighty Wurlitzer Organs in the country. What makes this restoration even more noteworthy is that the magnificent organ was made right here in WNY (in North Tonawanda).

Restoring this organ allows Shea’s and this art form to continue to be here, not just for the downtown Theatre District where it resides, but for all of Western New York.

“The Mighty Wurlitzer Organ in Shea’s Buffalo Theatre is often regarded by experts as one of the finest theater organs in the country,” said John Schaller, Director of Development at Shea’s.  “Its deeply lush and seemingly limitless tones have delighted patrons and organ enthusiasts for close to 96 years.  And we are so grateful for the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo for recognizing and understanding the importance of restoring and maintaining such a rich piece of pride and history that exists within these walls at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre.”

Photo by Tom Burns

The restoration of the organ, originally installed at Shea’s in December of 1925, will see the repair of the instrument’s 4 high-pressure regulators, the foundation chamber and the brass chamber. The work is intended to be completed in time for Shea’s Buffalo Theatre’s 100th Anniversary in 2026.

Investing in this history will help promote cultural tourism in our region and attract organization’s like the American Theatre Organ Society to come back to Buffalo in the future.

“I cannot emphasize to you in any stronger terms the ‘Gold Standard’ of theatre pipe organ that sits in those chambers at Shea’s Buffalo. It is not simple hyperbole, but fact. If one were ranking or awarding top honors for the finest sounding theatre organ in the world, Shea’s Buffalo could be arguably Number One, and most certainly Top Three. The Wurlitzer factory employees installed this organ, and the resulting sound is so incredibly and breathtakingly spectacular, if someone argued to me that Shea’s is Number One, I would not put up a fuss,” said Ken Double, American Theatre Organ Society.

Lead image: Photo by Tom Burns

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