PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Wanamaker pipe organ, nestled in the Grand Court of what is now Macy’s center city Philadelphia department store, is celebrating 100 years of high notes.

Peter Richard Conte, the organist there since 1989, entertained the crowd gathering around the eagle statue today to commemorate the organ’s centennial.

wanamaker organ stops The Wanamaker Organ, A Philadelphia Icon, Marks 100 Swell Years “This organ actually represents three symphony orchestras in its scope and size,” he says.

Anne Ewers, president and CEO of the nearby Kimmel Center, hosted the event.

“The amazing thing is that every single day that this store has been opened, since 1911, this instrument has been played,” she said.

Purchased by Philadelphia merchant prince John Wanamaker, it was first played in the store’s seven-story atrium on June 22nd, 1911.  Now, Conte says, Macy’s is the trusted custodian of the instrument, valued at nearly $60 million.

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conte peter organist dl tawa The Wanamaker Organ, A Philadelphia Icon, Marks 100 Swell Years
“It’s a national and international musical treasure,” Conte (above) told KYW Newsradio. “Macy’s ‘gets’ it.  They get that history and what it means to Philadelphia history and the world.”

The smallest of the 28,400 pipes is a quarter-inch long. The largest is more than 32 feet long.

Reported by Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio 1060

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