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.

In the summer of 2001, we were getting calls from a man named Ken Stark about this organ. Ken had been quietly slaving over this instrument, whose pipes had been removed for the loudspeakers for a now-ailing Allen .

Fortunately, the pipes had been saved, though over the years they had been severely damaged.

Ken, a retired engineer, knew nothing of pipe organs, but somehow managed to sort the organ pipes and reassemble the organ mechanically. As soon as we saw the interior of the organ we knew that all the pipes had to come back to the shop. Almost every facade pipe had it's ears knocked off and scrolls ripped out. According to Ken, most of the pipes had been stored under the organ, and in the process many had been bent, broken, and in some cases, completely flattened. It is probably some of the worst damage we had ever seen. In some cases entirely new languids had to be made.

Through the generosity of our friends at Austin and the skills of their pipemakers, we were able to do all the repairs that were needed. Holly spent countless hours with each rank on the voicing machine getting everything back into balance. Experienced with working over "pre-enjoyed pipes", during the job Holly frequently remarked on the superb craftsmanship of the Robjohn preparation work. On the undamaged pipes the cutups were straight and smooth, and the quality of the pipemaking was excellent.

Once the facade pipes were ready, we returned them to Ken. Ken, with assistance from other parishioners and guidance from pipe-stenciling expert Kristin Farmer, reproduced the original stencil pattern from traces of the stripped pipes.

While work on the facade continued, we continued with the repairs and revoicing. All of the pipes were washed, fitted with new stainless-steel tuning slides, and when we returned them to the church, we tonally re-finished the organ, doing our best to preserve the original sound as much as possible.

Odell opus 253, 1888, Reformed Church of Hyde Park, New York