Riverside Baptist Church
Jacksonville, Florida

At the corner of Park and King Streets
in Historic Riverside
The History of the C. Edward Bryan Memorial Organ

In 1925, the Ernest M. Skinner Pipe Organ Company of Boston, Massachusetts, installed its Opus 533 in the newly constructed sanctuary of Riverside Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida. This three manual instrument consisted of 23 ranks plus chimes.

In the fall of 1974, Skinner's Opus 473, originally placed in the Auditorium of the Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee, was declared surplus and offered to the highest bidder. Minimum bids were set at $10,000.00. Organist-Choirmaster, C. Edward Bryan, saw an opportunity for the church to enlarge its Skinner organ through the purchase of this Florida State instrument. Riverside Baptist entered what was to be the only bid received and subsequently purchased the organ for $10,005.00.

Although much of this four manual organ was resold, the Solo and Swell divisions, part of the Pedal division, along with the Harp and a 1931 Echo Great division (Æolian-Skinner Opus 473-E) were retained. The Solo, Pedal and Harp were placed in the chancel chamber, along with new pipes and chests by Organ Supply Company of Erie, Pennsylvania; the Swell and Echo Great divisions plus an Organ Supply horizontal Trumpet formed a new gallery organ. The chancel pipe racks or "outriggers" were built by Rufus N. (Nat) Geer, a member of Riverside Baptist Church. The expanded organ of 69 ranks was dedicated the C. Edward Bryan Memorial Organ on October 4, 1981 with a recital by Diane Bish.

In the fall of 1991, Ontko Pipe Organs, Inc. of Charleston, South Carolina, was engaged to perform a thorough rebuilding and enlargement. Ontko built a new four manual chancel console and installed a Solid State Logic Multisystem to control the organ. Allan Ontko designed the stoplist in consultation with organist, Mary Conley Holladay. The Skinner pipework was restored to its original tone and the Organ Supply pipes rescaled and revoiced to better blend with the Skinner work. A new Great principal chorus in modern American/French style was designed and built to augment the Skinner Great. New flue pipes were made by Stephen J. Russell of Cambridgeport, Vermont, and the horizontal Trumpet was revoiced by Trivo, Inc. of Hagerstown, Maryland. A new Montre and Prestant were added to the pipework exposed on the chancel outriggers.

The gallery organ was completely redesigned and enlarged. A three manual console purchased in 1988 was reworked and placed in the gallery, where it controls the gallery organ and much of the chancel Great, Swell, and Pedal divisions. (In the fall of 2000, Ontko installed a Solid State Logic Multisystem to control the gallery organ.) The horizontal Trumpet was relocated from the gallery ceiling to the front rail and the Skinner Harp and Celesta moved from the chancel to the gallery. Scott Ramsey and Charles Alderman of the congregation, together with Associate Minister, David Holladay, built the new gallery organ casework and supplied new electrical service to both the gallery and chancel. Wiring throughout the organ was brought up to electrical code standards.

The organ's wind system was thoroughly rebuilt. All of the Skinner windchests were completely reworked with new electric valve actions, and new leatherless chests provided for the non-Skinner pipework. These repairs and additions increased the size of the instrument to 79 ranks.