Restoring the World's Largest Pipe Organ
Dean Norbeck ’65 and his wife, Susan, are volunteering their time to help restore the world’s largest pipe organ in Atlantic City. Years of attending church services accompanied by the sound of pipe organs filled the couple with a love for the instrument and because of this, it has now inspired the couple to take on a special mission.
With a jaw-dropping 33,112 pipes in eight pipe chambers and weighing three million pounds, the massive organ was unlike anything Norbeck, an electrical engineer, had worked on.
In 1944, a hurricane flooded and severely damaged the Boardwalk Hall organ, silencing the instrument. But
in the early 2000s, the Historic Organ Restoration Committee was formed and, slowly but surely, the organ has been brought back to life.
As of this summer, restoration is 53 percent finished. Each of the organ’s pipes has an electromagnet that is activated by a key on the organ console. That key opens the air valve that allows air into that pipe. Each one of those electromagnets needs to be replaced. It’s just one of the tedious tasks of replacing valves, screws, and connections required to restore the organ. Norbeck remarks, “What I like to do is just fix things.
I’ve always been handy with electrical things, which is why I was an engineer, and I’ve always been good with tools.”
Norbeck earned his associate degree in Electrical Engineering from York Junior College and then went on to get his bachelor’s and master’s in Electrical Engineering. He and his wife met at the same music appreciation class at the College more than 50 years ago. The two are excited and passionate to be a part of the organ’s transformation.