J.H. & C.S. Odell, Pipe Organ Builders

More than 150 years building distinctive and refined instruments for worship

Brothers John Henry and Caleb Sherwood Odell founded the organ building firm of J.H. & C.S. Odell on the bustling corner of West 42nd Street and 9th Avenue in New York City in 1859. Odell was immediately successful and built more than 500 pipe organs at that location before relocating to Westchester, New York in the 1930s.   Odell remained active in the Greater New York Metropolitan area well into the 1970s, but after the death of the principal of the firm, William H. Odell in 1979, decided to dissolve the firm after completing obligations to then-current clients.

In the pursuit of a long sought vision, the Odell company was re-established by Caleb Sherwood Odell's  great-great grandson Edward Odell, in 1999 -- this after garnering more than twenty years of organ building experience -- both on his own and with other well-established national firms. With more than three decades of full-time work in the trade, Edward is now a respected and credentialed professional as a Colleague member of the American Institute of Organbuilders.  The new Odell firm has been active in a modern shop in central Connecticut for more than 15 years.

Since re-establishing the firm, Odell has successfully built many exciting new pipe organs, executed meticulous historic restorations and performed vastly complicated repair projects. With our team of carefully recruited artisans, Odell performs all its own millwork, joinery, fabrication, voicing and finishing. Further, unlike many firms today, Odell casts its own pipe metal and makes its own organ pipes.

Timelessness, musicality and an unflinching commitment to quality are our foremost concerns as pipe organ builders. We possess a profound dedication to our work;  clients quickly learn  that when they partner with Odell, they work directly with people who -- given the opportunity  --  will design and construct their instrument from raw materials with passion and exactitude. Our ever-present goal is to develop nuanced solutions and create pipe organs that will serve their congregations with reliability and grace for generations to come.

St. Sava

I read the breaking news last night about the incredible loss  of St. Sava — formerly Trinity Parish — which housed two Odell organs (the first a rebuild of an earlier Hall and Labaugh) but it was the latter one (Odell Opus 548, 1922) that I had come to know quite well.

  Stepping into the sanctuary at St. Sava,  which was then effectively the National Home of the Serbian Othrdox Church in America, was like stepping into a time capsule.  Since the purchase of the building from Trinity Wall Street  in the 1940s the only major interior change was the installation of "a  large Iconostasis (altar screen), carved at the Monastery of St. Naum in Yugoslavia, and containing 40 richly painted icons, was installed behind the altar."  -- Lawson

 Richard Upjohn’s unmistakable artwork was otherwise everywhere to be found; the place a veritable a treasure house of gothic detail.  Such details were sadly only dimly lit, as the original chandeliers, now fixed with ordinary bulbs were the only source of light.

Note the unique coupler arrangement on the rare early Odell electric drawknob console. 

Note the unique coupler arrangement on the rare early Odell electric drawknob console. 

 

I came to be familiar with the organ as the church leadership consulted with me several years ago extensively to sell it. It was an instrument of considerable proportions as you can see here in the NYCAGO website meticulously kept by Steve Lawson.

 

The organ was nearly purchased by a German church who had sent their firm over for a second survey with me, possibly seeking to augment it with some Odell pipework I had in inventory.  We spent a few agreeable days together talking shop, but alas, nothing came of it.  Last I had heard, the organ had been removed.