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.