Soon after John Wanamaker opened Philadelphia's first department store in the shadow of City Hall in 1879, he had the idea to give customers an even better shopping experience: one enhanced with the music of a pipe organ. As luck would have it, the largest organ in the world was up for grabs for pennies, and Wanamaker snatched it up and had it shipped from Missouri to install in his store — though not before adding more and more pipes, ensuring its music would reach the outermost corners of the building's 9 floors of retail space. Macy's currently employs two full-time workers to keep the organ up and running, and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ provides additional full-time and part-time employees to help assist in the maintenance of the 7-story high instrument.
But during the holiday season, even this massively impressive beast of a music maker plays second fiddle to Macy's Light Show, a staple of every Philadelphian's Christmas to-do list since 1956. Here's a video of this year's show, for those of youse far from home this Christmas.
· Philagraphics: The Wanamaker Organ [Philly.com]
- Megan Ritchie Jooste