The Kotzschmar was built into the Merrill, originally known as Portland City Hall Auditorium, when the building was constructed in 1912. Publishing magnate Cyrus H. K. Curtis, founder of the Saturday Evening Post, commissioned the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut, to construct and install the organ, gifting it to the city.
Curtis named the organ after his music teacher, Hermann Kotzschmar, a man he greatly admired and respected. Kotzschmar, a German native, lived in Portland from 1848 until his death in April 1908. For at least 50 years, Kotzschmar was involved in every worthy musical endeavor in Portland. He had a pivotal and lasting influence in Portland’s rich cultural life.
The Kotzschmar was one of the largest organs in the world when it was built. Its original cost was $30,000. Today, its replacement value is estimated to be between $4 million and $5 million.
In 2012, the Kotzschmar was removed, and a complete professional renovation commenced. The work took more than two years to complete. The fully revitalized organ was dedicated on September 24, 2014, a triumph for the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ, the City of Portland, and other Kotzschmar devotees around the country and world.
Today, the Kotzschmar delights thousands each year with its incredible musical range.