Spreckel Organ Pavillion

Spreckels Organ Pavilion
The Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park is a stunning landmark of San Diego. The Organ Pavilion was originally built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. This organ was donated by John and Adolf Spreckels to the City of San Diego and, for the most part, has been in continuous use. Currently, the organ has over 4500 pipes: the smallest pipes are a few inches tall while the larger ones are 32 feet in height. This makes the Spreckels Organ one of the largest outdoor organs in the world. At full capacity, the benches can accommodate 2,400 people.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion
The Sound

If you have never heard a pipe-organ play, you will be taken back by the deep whoaaa, whoooaaa sound. And, the Spreckles Organ is even more profound since it is absolutely huge. The sound is rich and the volume can extend beyond the perimeter of Balboa Park.

Unlike traditional church organs, this one is fitted with stops that allow the pipes to produce sounds similar to those of brass, reed, string and percussion instruments.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion
The organist may play a variety of songs including classical music and contemporary pieces. It is interesting to note that a good organist can create a wide range of moods: from somber tones to upbeat, peppy jingles. It's a joy to experience and it's free too.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion

The Architecture

At first glance, you will see large gilded organ pipes high up in center stage. These are mostly for show - the majority of the functional pipes are housed behind visible organ pipes. On Sundays, the audience may be invited to the back of the pavilion to see some of the other pipes.

The pavilion was built by Harrison Albright in the Italian-Renaissance style. It is semi-circular with a central, 75 feet arch; and two flanking colonnades (pairs of columns). Upon careful examination, you will see ornate scrolls, shells, flowers, and such detailing.

The pavilion is north facing: this protects the organ against direct sunlight. A consequence of this is that the audience faces south (at the sun) for the duration of the afternoon concerts. When the organ is not in use, a 20,000 pound corrugated screen is lowered to cover and protect the organ pipes.

According to the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department: no rock music, no food or drinks, and no animals are allowed. However, these rules have relaxed somewhat since the organ pavilion hosts events in honor of dachshunds. As well, the Balboa Park web sites states that food is allowed but no glass containers.

Location, Hours of Operation, Parking

Organ Pavilion
Balboa Park (map location 18)
(619) 702-8138
Parking lot is located directly behind the Pavilion on the corner of President's Way and Pan American Road East. Concerts:

Sunday Concerts: every Sunday: 2 to 3 pm

International Summer Organ Festival: mid-June to Aug: Mon 7:30 pm

Spreckels Organ Pavilion

As requested by John D. Spreckel, concerts are free for the general public.

The Spreckels Organ Society welcomes donations to help support the upkeep of the organ. There is a gift shop where you can buy one-of-a-kind CDs and merchandise. As well, the Organ Pavilion is available for rent for private concerts, graduations, weddings and other special events.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion