Chicago-Midwest Chapter

Organ Historical Society

First Presbyterian Church
North Sheridan and Deerpath Roads
Lake Forest, Illinois

As early as 1856, the Reverend Robert Patterson and members of the Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago began to visit the area which became Lake Forest, with the intention of beginning a community which would focus on establishing a Presbyterian university for this region.  On July 24, 1859, the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest was formally organized with a membership of fourteen persons.  Meetings were initially held in the Chapel of the Lake Forest Academy.  On November 23, 1859, a meeting of the congregation organized the Society of the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, at which time trustees were elected.  The Reverend William Cowper Dickinson, an Academy faculty member, conducted many of the early services and was called as the first full-time pastor in 1862, the year the first church building was erected, described:  “a Gothic design frame cottage in the form of a cross, with a pointed roof, two low spires on either side of the front door, and windows of clear glass.”  Reverend Dickinson was installed as pastor on May 10, 1864, remaining until June 1867, when he left for the Calvary Presbyterian Church of Chicago.

In 1868, the Reverend James H. Taylor was called to Lake Forest from the Old Brick Church, Orange, New Jersey.  During his tenure, additions were made to the original church to accommodate larger membership:  wings at the sides of the church to seat students of the nearby Academy, and a lecture room adjoining the church.  In November 1881, the Reverend James Gore King McClure became fourth pastor of the church.

In 1886, plans for the present church on Sheridan Road were commenced to the design of Charles Sumner Frost of Chicago’s Cobb and Frost.  The plant would include a manse for the pastor.  The stones of this building came largely from the Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago, then at Wabash and Washington Streets, which had burned in the Great Fire of October 1871.  (These stones were quarried in 1848 from a site now at Chicago and Western Avenues.  By the time of the fire, Second Church had sold the property to Timothy Wright and Joseph and John Medill.  When the church building burnt, Wright had the stones shipped to Winnetka, where he had planned to build a church in memory of his mother near his residence.  For unknown reasons, this did not occur, though Wright had belonged to the Unitarian Church in Winnetka, which eventually became the Winnetka Congregational Church.  Wright sold the stones to Robert Hall McCormick, of the well-known McCormick family, who were Presbyterians.  McCormick had originally planned to build a residence for himself with these stones, on property west of Lake Forest.  The stones still sat unused for several years, until the Lake Forest Church purchased them for use in their present building.)  The church was dedicated on June 1, 1888.  Dr. Patterson, who had presided over the dedication of Second Church, Chicago, both the Wabash and Michigan Avenue churches, preached at this dedication as well.  In 1902, Louis C. Tiffany of New York City, New York, redecorated the sanctuary.  Over the course of several years thereafter, a triptych of windows above the chancel and several windows along the nave were installed in the nave Tiffany.  One of these windows was given in memory of Lily Reid Holt, in whose name the Chapel of Lake Forest College was built.  Additional windows were eventually done by Charles J. Connick, Franz Schroeder, Frank Drebobl, Henry Wynd Young, and Botti Studio of Architectural Arts, Inc.  In 1905, Reverend Dr. McClure left First Church to become President of the McCormick Theological Seminary of Chicago.  The Reverend Dr. William Hugh Wray Boyle, pastor of the House of Hope Presbyterian Church of Saint Paul, Minnesota, was called as pastor of First Church.  Soon thereafter, an addition was made to the church building for Sunday School purposes, with stones matching the original, designed by Frost.

Even in the early 1860’s music was a recorded part of the worship life of the church.  A history of the congregation mentions “a volunteer choir led the singing accompanied by a hand-blown organ.”  Further information on this instrument is not available.

The first pipe organ owned by this congregation, the first in Lake Forest, was built by the Hook & Hastings firm of Boston, Massachusetts, a two-manual, 27-stop organ, opus 1335.  It cost $4,000.00  The instrument was first used on June 10, 1887, and was situated in the northwest corner of the church.  Charles C. Holt was organist at that time.  This instrument was rebuilt and altered in 1925 by the Wangerin-Weickhardt firm of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, becoming a three-manual organ.  The project occurred at the same time that the chancel was renovated, and the instrument was placed in chambers above and to the sides of the chancel platform.  Siegfried E. Gruenstein, founder and first editor of The Diapason served presided over this organ from 1891 until 1939.  Gruenstein had been a student at Lake Forest Academy at the time he was hired.  James R. Gillette became organist when Gruenstein retired.  In 1940, the chancel was renovated to its present form, designed by Stanley Anderson.  The Tiffany light fixtures were removed, some of them installed in Reid Chapel at Lake Forest College.  Portions of this organ were given to the Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago when the present organ was installed.

The present two-manual, mechanical-action organ was installed by Casavant Frères, Limitée, as their opus 3160, in 1973.  Stop action is electric with solid-state combination action.  The free-standing solid oak case is installed in a rear gallery; the console is detached.  Manual compass is 56 notes (C-G); pedal compass is 32 notes (C-G).  The organ was designed by Lawrence Phelps of Casavant, but finished by Gerhard Brunzema, who succeeded Phelps.  A dedicatory recital was played Robert Anderson on April 15, 1973.  Richard Enright of Northwestern University was organist of the church at the time of installation.  The rear gallery was given over to house the organ and the choir.

The balcony of the Chapel houses a two-manual unit organ built by the Schlicker Organ Co. of Buffalo, New York, in 1965.  The organ is entirely enclosed, save for twelve basses of the Principal, in the façade of the organ, and twelve basses of the Untersatz, stacked horizontally in two rows at the rear of the balcony.  The console of rocker-tablet stop control is on the main floor of the chapel, at the rear of the nave.  A plaque affixed to the side of the console reads:  “First Presbyterian Chapel Organ/to the Glory of God in loving/memory of Dianne Lynn Johnson/Given by/Members and friends of the/First Presbyterian Church.”

Specification of 1973 Casavant Frères, Limitée, opus 3160:

Great (Manual I, 2-1/4” wind pressure)

16 Quintaden (56 pipes)
8 Prinzipal (56 pipes)
8 Rohrflöte (56 pipes)
8 Stillflöte (56 pipes)
4 Oktav (56 pipes)
4 Spitzflöte (56 pipes)
2-2/3 Nasat (56 pipes)
2 Oktav (56 pipes)
2 Blockflöte (56 pipes)
1-3/5 Terz (56 pipes)
V Mixtur (1-1/3’—280 pipes)
8 Trompete (56 pipes)

Swell (Manual II, 2” wind pressure)

8 Salizional (56 pipes)
8 Gedackt (56 pipes)
8 Vox Coelestis (from tenor C—44 pipes)
4 Prinzipal (56 pipes)
4 Koppelflöte (56 pipes)
2 Oktav (56 pipes)
1-1/3 Quintflöte (56 pipes)
II Sesquialtera (2-2/3’, from tenor C—88 pipes)
III Scharf (2/3’—168 pipes)
16 Dulzian (56 pipes)
8 Schalmei (56 pipes)

Pedal (2-1/2” wind pressure)

16 Prinzipal (32 pipes)
16 Subbass (32 pipes)
8 Oktav (32 pipes)
8 Bordun (32 pipes)
4 Choralbass (32 pipes)
IV Mixtur (2’—128 pipes)
16 Posaune (32 pipes)
16 Fagott (cylindrical—32 pipes)
8 Trompete (32 pipes)
4 Rohrschalmei (32 pipes)



Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Swell to Great


8 General pistons (thumb, under Manual II, and toe)
8 Great pistons (thumb, under Manual I)
8 Swell pistons (thumb, under Manual II)
8 Pedal pistons (thumb, under Manual I, and toe)
General Cancel (thumb)
32 levels of combination memory
Great to Pedal reversible (thumb and toe)
Swell to Pedal reversible (thumb and toe)
Swell to Great reversible (thumb and toe)
Zimbelstern reversible (toe)
Full Organ reversible (thumb and toe, with indicator light)
Balanced Swell expression shoe
Pulpit indicator light and button
Vestry indicator light and button
Narthex indicator light and button

Specification of 1965 Schlicker Organ Co. organ:

Great (Manual I)

8 Principal (12 basses in façade)
8 Rohrfloete
8 Salicional
4 Octave (extension, 8’ Principal)
4 Rohrfloete (extension, 8’ Rohrfloete)
2 Blockfloete
III Mixture
8 Schalmei
4 Schalmei

Positiv (Manual II)

8 Rohrfloete (from Great, 8’ Rohrfloete)
8 Salicional (from Great, 8’ Salicional)
4 Blockfloete (extension, Great 2’ Blockfloete)
4 Salicional (extension, Great, 8’ Salicional)
2 Principal (extension, Great 8’ Principal)
1-1/3 Larigot (extension, Great, 2’ Blockfloete)
1 Siffloete (extension, Great, 2’ Blockfloete)
4 Schalmei (from Great, 8’ Schalmei)


16 Untersatz (extension, Great 8’ Rohrfloete, basses unenclosed, horizontal at rear of balcony)
8 Principal (from Great, 8’ Principal)
8 Rohrfloete (from Great, 8’ Rohrfloete)
8 Salicional (from Positiv, 8’ Salicional)
4 Octave (from Great, 8’ Principal)
4 Rohrfloete (from Great, 8’ Rohrfloete)
2 Blockfloete (from Great, 2’ Blockfloete)
II Rauschquinte (from Great, Principal at 2’ pitch and Blockfloete at 1-1/3’ pitch)
16 Schalmei (extension, Great, 8’ Schalmei)
4 Schalmei (from Great, 8’ Schalmei)



2 Comb. pistons, blind, operated by setter pins in rows above each stop, with indicator lights (green for General 1, red for General 2)

Balanced expression shoe


Principal (85 pipes)
Rohrfloete (85 pipes)
Blockfloete (85 pipes)
Salicional (73 pipes)
Schalmei (85 pipes)
Mixture (183 pipes)

Information gathered from:  History of First Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest, Illinois, 1859-1984, published by the church; Symbols and Art:  First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, Illinois, published by the church, 1998; The Memorial Stained-Glass Windows:  First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, published by the church, n.d.; and The Diapason, May 1973, page 18.


9/27/2005 - © Chicago-Midwest Chapter, Organ Historical Society