SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – A 40-ton pipe organ that was one of the largest in the world is in pieces, gathering dust below Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco. An effort has been launched to dust the organ off and bring it back to its former glory.

Justin Kielty remembers the first time he heard the Opus 500 pipe organ at San Francisco Civic Auditorium. It was 1952.

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“The organ got to every bone in your body, earth shattering, bone rattling,” Kielty recalled.

The organ once stood three stories tall. In its day, the organ with 7,500 pipes was the most complicated man-made machine before the invention of the telephone exchange.

Opus 500 was built for the Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco 100 years ago. It stood majestically at the World’s Fair and then the Civic Auditorium, until the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, when it was damaged and dismantled.

Now, it’s in pieces, all housed in the dark, dusty and dank basement of Civic Center Plaza, the old Brooks Hall.

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The organ has been repaired, now it just needs someplace to live. There are literally a million pieces to put back together, which could be done, or not.

Vic Ferrer is among those pulling out the stops to refurbish this historic instrument.

“There are people out there who would be happy to see this instrument just go into a landfill. We just want to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Ferrer told KPIX 5. “People need to see it, touch it, hear it. This instrument is part of San Francisco’s great history and people need to experience firsthand.”

The cost to preserve this piece of history is $2 million.

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Backers of the Opus 500 want the organ housed at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the Palace of Fine Arts or the Kaiser Center in Oakland.