Brothers John Henry and Caleb Sherwood Odell founded the organ building firm of J.H. & C.S. Odell in 1859. Despite strong competition from other well-established organ builders based in New York City in the late-nineteenth century, as builders the Odells enjoyed an immediate popularity, turning out an average of 10 to 12 organs a year by 1870.
The Odells distinguished themselves as builders of refined instruments for worship from the outset; it is no coincidence that many of the major religious edifices of New York City have or had an Odell instrument at some point in their history. A short list would include St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Bartholomew’s, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian, Marble Collegiate, St. Charles Borromeo and St. Michael's, 34th Street.
One of most notable instruments built by the firm is their Opus 190 (III/45, 1881) located at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, in Troy, New York. This unique organ is believed to be the only extant 19th Century concert hall instrument in this country.
Operating from the works on West 42nd Street until well after the turn of the century, the firm moved to Westchester County, New York in 1928. Over the course of the 20th century, the firm has survived the Great Depression, two World Wars and drastic changes in the pipe organ industry. In 2009 the firm celebrated 150 years of a family organ building legacy; Odell is the only familyorgan building firm founded in New York City in the late-nineteenth century that remains operating today, and is the oldest family-owned and operated organ building firm in America.
Recent installations include the firm’s new mechanical action organ at the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in New York City (Opus 653, 2014) , a new three manual drawknob console (Opus 651, 2013) for the Norfolk Church of Christ Congregational, a new two manual, electric action organ with slider chests for the historic Congregational Church of Orange, Connecticut (Opus 649, 2011).
A new, two manual slider chest organ (Opus 652) is presently nearing completion for Westminter Presbyterian Chruch in Rock Tavern, New York, while the firm is concurrently working on a major redesign and rebuild for St. Luke's Episcopal Church in San, Antonio, Texas.