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La Canada Accepts Offer for Historic Organ : Lanterman estate: Glendale would pay the city $50,000. Officials have 60 days to work out the details.


In the wake of extensive lobbying by Glendale city officials, the La Canada Flintridge City Council on Monday tentatively agreed to sell its famed Lanterman theater organ to its neighbor, provided that Glendale meets a number of conditions.

Officials of the two cities were given 60 days to iron out details of an agreement, including a provision that the rare Wurlitzer organ be kept where it would be readily available for public use, such as at the Alex Theater or the Glendale Civic Auditorium.

The Glendale City Council has taken no official action to purchase the organ, but leaders have agreed informally that the instrument would be an asset to the community, Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian said.

Glendale has offered to pay $50,000 for the organ and was competing with three other potential buyers, including the Northern California city of Walnut Creek.

Representatives of the two cities met Friday at the Alex Theater to discuss acquisition of the organ and its placement in the historic theater, which Glendale officials also have informally agreed should be renovated as a performing arts center.

Three Glendale officials--Zarian, City Manager David Ramsay and Redevelopment Director Jeanne Armstrong--attended La Canada Flintridge's meeting Monday, but did not speak. Zarian said the delegation was there "to let the city know that Glendale is very serious about having the Lanterman organ. We are almost unanimous in our decision."

The La Canada Flintridge City Council voted in October to sell the organ--if conditions are met--because the city lacks the funds to restore, maintain and house it.

As another sale condition, La Canada Flintridge officials have indicated that they would want the organ returned if it is not properly used or maintained.

The organ was given to La Canada Flintridge in 1987 as part of the estate of the late Assemblyman Frank Lanterman.

It was built in 1926 for the 4,651-seat Fox Theater in San Francisco and was purchased by Lanterman for $15,000 after the theater closed in 1963.

It is housed in a recital hall that was added 26 years ago to the 1915 Craftsman-style Lanterman House. The city was awarded a $500,000 state grant to restore the house, but officials consider the hall ugly and inadequate for the organ.

The proposed sale of the organ has widely split members of the Lanterman Historical Museum Foundation, established by the city to oversee operation of the estate. Foundation directors recommended that the city sell the organ, but many of its members disagree. They repeatedly have protested at council meetings, including again Monday.

However, Sue Schechter, foundation president, said selling the organ to Glendale would be advantageous because the instrument could be kept close to home. She was among several La Canada officials who toured the Alex Theater last week.

"Glendale seems eager to have the organ and we were favorably impressed with the Alex," Schechter said.

In his bid for the organ, Zarian said Glendale is willing to spend up to $500,000 to acquire, relocate and renovate the instrument, one of only four of its kind remaining. City Council approval is required before any money can be spent to buy it.

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