Open House to History: The Hartwood Mansion (And its Organ)

This weekend the Hartwood Mansion is hosting an Open House on Sunday, May 20th from 2-5 pm to showcase its newly renovated organ. Jim Stark (from the Harmony Society Chapter of the Organ Historical Society) has been so gracious as to send this information along about Hartwood and its historical organ.

Hartwood Acres County Park
Indiana Township, Pennsylvania

Hartwood Farms, now Hartwood Acres County Park, was established by John and Mary Flinn Lawrence between 1924 and 1929. Mary was the daughter of Pittsburgh contractor William Flinn.

William Flinn was born in Manchester, England in 1851 and came to Pittsburgh with his
Irish parents at the age of one. As a young man, he worked in various trades, including
brass finishing and gas and steam fitting, before starting his own contracting firm in
partnership with James J Booth in 1876. Booth and Flinn, Ltd. would go on to be one
of the most prominent contracting companies in the United States, having completed the Holland Tunnels in New York in 1922 among other major projects. William Flinn died
in 1924.

Flinn early became involved in Republican politics, being elected to both the House and
Senate of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and that is where he became associated with Christopher Magee, Jr. Chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Party.
This association became beneficial for both men, and some say scandalous. Lincoln
Steffens, in his book The Shame of Cities, put it this way: “Magee wanted power, Flinn
wealth…..Magee spent his wealth for more power, and Flinn spent his power for wealth.”

Mary Flinn, one of six children, was born on February 20, 1887 and grew up in Braemar,
the Flinn’s home on North Highland Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Highland Park section. She
was educated at the Farmington School and Briarcliff College. She was active in civic
organizations and Republican politics where she championed women’s suffrage, humane working conditions and sex education, and she was a competent athlete and horsewoman.
Mary was also a musician and for her sixteenth birthday Flinn bought for her a Steinway
grand piano. Then, in 1909, while Mary was still living at home, he bought an Aeolian
pipe organ, opus 1091 of ten ranks and costing $8,500. This was enlarged in 1910 with
the addition of a two rank Echo Organ, chimes and a 16’ Pedal Deep Flute P at an
additional cost of $3,000.

In 1914 Mary married John Lawrence in a ceremony at the Sixth United Presbyterian
Church of Pittsburgh (now Eastminster), followed by a reception at Braemar. The couple
continued to live with the elder Flinns until after Mrs. Flinn’s death in 1927, but had
acquired 300 plus acres in Indiana Township a few years earlier.

Alfred Hopkins, of New York, was selected to design the estate. The stables and a small cottage were completed in 1926. The main house, attached to the cottage, was completed in 1929. The house, of Indiana limestone, is in a Cotswold style. The stables, garage and barn, in a nearby hollow, and the gate house on Saxonburg Boulevard, are of humbler material, concrete block, but are equally picturesque.

The Aeolian pipe organ was taken out of the Highland Park house before it was
demolished and placed in storage. It was installed at Hartwood in 1930. No record

has been found to suggest that Aeolian-Skinner moved the organ, so apparently a local
firm undertook the job. However, there were no tonal or mechanical changes made,
and according to the original engineering drawings, the configuration of the organ at
Hartwood is very close to that in Braemar.

The console is located in the Great Room on the first floor and the organ, itself, is in the
basement speaking through panels in the Great Room walls which open, operated by
pneumatic motors, when the organ blower is turned on. This is a semi-automatic player
organ, having the Aeolian 116 note tracker bar. A collection of some 461 rolls is housed
in the Great Room and the Library down the hall, which is a part of the original Cottage.

John and Mary Lawrence had no children of their own, but in 1937, when Mary was 50,
they adopted a three year old, John Wheeler Lawrence, Jr., and in 1939 another three year old, William Flinn Lawrence. Both children came from England.

John Lawrence died in 1945. Mary continued to live at Hartwood Farms, but in 1962
she was injured in an automobile accident that severely restricted her activities. In 1969,
Hartwood was sold to Allegheny County with the provision that Mary continue to live
there until her death, which occurred on October 29, 1974. Harwood Acres was opened to the public in 1976. It provides hiking, biking and riding trails, and other outdoor activities including summer concerts on the lawn. The house is used for weddings and other events. The interior of the house is much as it was when Mary Lawrence was alive, and tours can be arranged by appointment.

The house is in good condition, but being a masonry structure, it has suffered from
periods of very high and very low humidity. Further, when the house was built, heating
ducts were run into the organ chambers, subjecting the pipes and chests to occasional
high temperatures. The organ is currently undergoing restoration, but the extreme
environmental damage to the organ has caused the project to take considerably more time than was expected.

Charles A. Rook, ed., Western Pennsylvanians: a work for newspapers and library
reference / compiled under the direction of the James O Jones Company, Western
Pennsylvania Biological Association, publisher, Pittsburgh (1923) p. 68

Rollin Smith, The Aeolian Pipe Organ and its Music, Organ Historical Society,
Richmond (1998), p. 335

Walter Kidney, text, Landmark Architecture of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County,
Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, Pittsburgh (1985) p. 338

Lincoln Steffens, The Shame of Cities, Hill and Wang, New York (1957). P. 106

Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania Archives MSS# 185

American Organ Archives, Princeton
Archives April 2006



The specifications of the organ are as follows:

Aeolian opus 1091 (1909-10)
IIP/13HC w/116 note player
Harwood Acres
Pittsburgh, PA 15238

Manuals I & II (duplexed – expressive – 4” wind)
1. Diapason                       Open Diapason 46 sc
2. String P                         V. D’Orchestre 63 sc
3. String F                         Gamba [55 sc marked “1110”]
4. String PP                      Aeoline 69 sc
5. Flute                             St Diap 39 sc
6. Flute (high) 4’                 Fl Harm Reg
7. Oboe                            Orch – Short
8. Trumpet                        Cor D’Amour ¾” – mitre 6’6”
9. Vox Humana                  Reg Box
10. Tremolo
11. Harp
12. Chimes

Echo (from MI or MII – expressive – 3 ½” wind)
13. Vox Humana                 Reg – no Box
14. Flute                            St Diap 30 sc
15. Tremolo

Pedal (4” wind)
16. Flute (deep) 16’ F Bourdon 18
17. Flute (deep) 16’ P Bourdon 28

18. MII to MI*
19. MII to MI Octaves
20. MII Octaves
21. MII Sub Octaves
22. MII to Pedal*
23. MII Unison Release
24. MI Octaves
25. MI Sub Octaves
26. MI Unison Release
27. MI to Pedal*
28. Pedal Release*
29. Echo MI or MII
230. Harp MI or MII
31. Chimes MI or MII
Main Expression – 6 point
Echo Expression – 4 point
Presets MI & MII p, mf, f
* Switched pneumatically in console

Source: Contract, American Organ Archives




Again, a huge “Thank you!” is extended to Jim Stark. For more information, pictures and directions to the Mansion, check out The Hartwood Mansion’s website.


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