When built, the Hibbing High School auditorium, where a young Robert Zimmerman performed two brief concerts in the 1950's with his first two bands, boasted a Barton pipe organ, one of only two in the United States*, purchased from the Chicago Vaudeville Theater in 1920 at a cost of $26,000. Until 1928 when a student was injured in a fall and the mechanism thereafter disabled, the organ manual rose on a cylinder piston to bring the organist to stage height. With three manuals arranged in a horseshoe shape, the original Barton was known as a 12-rank organ that produced sound through 1,900 pipes hidden in closets above the two box seats. The current organ, rebuilt in Milwaukee and converted after reconstruction in Hibbing to a concert organ in 1976 by Norbert Berschdorf, now uses 1,949 pipes varying in size from one inch to sixteen feet in height to give the organ a 29-rank range. With over 100,000 working parts, the organ can reproduce sounds as varied as bird whistles, tom-toms, xylophones, and tambourines -- essentially any musical instrument except the violin -- with the sound projected from behind the diamond shaped panels above the side boxes.**
*The aerial lift bridge in Duluth is similar in that it is one of two such lift bridges in the world, the other being in Lisbon, Portugal.
**Information about the organ courtesy Nelson French, 1970 graduate of Hibbing High.