Organ, Sacred Music, and Historical Keyboards

Hook and Hastings Organ



H&H Facade SK

Photo by Stephen Kennedy

During the first decade of the 19th century, William Goodrich, regarded as the founder of the Boston organ-building industry, began building organs as a fulltime career. A musical but largely self-taught craftsman whose major textbook was the several 18th century English church and chamber organs in the city, he soon established a workshop to meet the growing demand for domestically-built organs and began hiring apprentices and journeyman cabinetmakers to assist him. One of the earliest was Thomas Appleton, who would soon begin business on his own, and in the early 1820s two musically-inclined young men, sons of William Hook, a noted Salem, Massachusetts cabinetmaker, traveled to Boston to apprentice with Goodrich. On their return in 1827, George Hook built a good-sized chamber organ (still extant in the Peabody-Essex Museum) for a Boston merchant, and Elias Hook briefly opened a music store. The following year Elias also built a small organ for a local church, and the two brothers soon formed a partnership as E. & G. G. Hook, and began building organs in earnest.

By 1832 their business had prospered, and they moved to a new workshop in Boston; the following year they built their first 3-manual organ. In 1849 the Hooks built their 100th organ, and were soon averaging about 15 organs per year. In 1853 they built their first 4-manual organ, and the following year moved into a much larger, steam-powered factory. This undoubtedly allowed for the expansion of the workforce, and among the newer apprentices was young Francis Hastings. He soon proved his worth as a woodworker and draftsman, and worked his way up the company. Following the Civil War, business increased noticeably, with 30 or more organs being produced annually. This increase was partly due to sizable organs being ordered by some of the large churches being built in this period, especially in the east and Midwest, and partly to one of Hastings’s innovations: stock designs for smaller organs that could be ordered from a catalog, and were popular in smaller rural churches and chapels across the country.

This increased production to the point that by 1871, the year that Hastings became a full partner under the name of E. &. G. G. Hook & Hastings, the factory was turning out 50 or more organs annually. One might think that this could have affected quality, but existing organs of all sizes still testify to the high standards of mechanical design, voicing, and careful craftsmanship that characterized the work of this firm. By the 1870s too, major changes in organ building were occurring, both mechanically and tonally. The largest organs usually employed a form of “Barker machine” to assist the action, although smaller ones always had the company’s light and well-designed tracker action. Tonally, European influences, both British and German, and in some instances French, began to appear, especially in larger organs, which, in addition to a well-balanced chorus and the firm’s excellent reed stops, also boasted a fine variety of 8’ and 4’ flutes and strings. Hastings now seemed to be in charge of the firm’s more ambitious projects, notably the 1875 70-stop organ for Boston’s Holy Cross Cathedral, their largest organ up to that date, and one that is still in regular use.

George Hook died in 1880, and his brother Elias in the following year, and while both appear to have been active almost to the end, Hastings then became the sole proprietor of the firm, which soon changed its name to simply Hook & Hastings Co. In 1889 Hastings built a large modern factory on farmland owned by his family in the suburb of Weston, an ideal location in view of the fact that a railroad ran through it that would be useful for shipping, for by this time Hook & Hastings organs could be found everywhere in the continental United States as well as in Canada. Production remained high throughout the 1880s and 1890s, and into the first decade of the 20th century. By the turn of the century a number of immigrants had joined the workforce, primarily from Scandinavia, England and Quebec, and some of the voicers were Germans. By this time also, larger organs were beginning to be built with pneumatic or electric actions, although smaller ones were still routinely built with mechanical action.

When Hastings died in 1916, the direction of the firm fell into the hands of relatives who did not have the practical hands-on background that Hastings had. By this time too, American organ building firms, some much newer than Hook & Hastings, were all beginning to follow the fashionable trend to an orchestral tonal scheme, and were developing improved versions of electric action and chest design. Competition for prestigious commissions was strong from newer and more innovative firms such as Möller, Austin and Skinner, and even by the time of Hastings’ death the number of organs issuing from his factory had begun to decrease. Although a few major contracts still came through in the 1920s, production, largely of smaller organs, continued to diminish, and the Great Depression of the early 1930s dealt the final blow. The 2,614th  (and last) Hook & Hastings organ left the factory in 1935, and its doors finally closed in the following year.

II. E. & G. G. HOOK, OPUS 308, 1862

Emmanuel Episcopal Church of Boston was founded in 1860 to serve the growing population of the then newly-developed Back Bay residential area, and in 1862 erected its present impressive stone building on Newbury Street, at what was then the western edge of that rapidly developing district. Designed by Alexander R. Esty, it was consecrated on April 24, 1862 by Bishop Eastburn, who described its interior as “chaste in ornament and convenient in its arrangements.” Among the ornaments and arrangements was Hook’s three-manual Opus 308, of 31 speaking stops, with a reversed console and “situated in a room at the south side of the chancel, with a screen carved in black walnut in front, designed by Mr. Estey, architect of the church, forming a large arch, filled with pipes beautifully ornamented in gold and various colors.” This organ had already been dedicated on February 4 in a musical program by five of Boston’s leading organists and a “Combination of Choirs.” The organists were Samuel Atkins Bancroft, Samuel P. Tuckerman, John H. Willcox, B. J. Lang, and J. C. D. Parker.

Interestingly, all five organists played Hook organs. Bancroft had just been appointed organist of the new Emmanuel Church, Tuckerman was organist of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Hook #160, 1854), Willcox had recently been appointed organist of Immaculate Conception Church, where Hook would soon install one of their largest organs (#322, 1863), Lang too was soon to have a sizable new Hook in South Congregational Church (#349, 1864), and Parker was organist of the Arlington Street Unitarian Church (#302, 1861). All of these organs represented the new directions in which Hook’s work was moving in the late 1850s and early 1860s. While the Great division of a 3-manual organ was still conservative, consisting mainly of a principal chorus 16’ through Mixture – although larger scaled and more boldly voiced than formerly – plus one or two flutes and reeds, the Swell and Choir were growing in size, with 8’ and 4’ flute and string-toned color stops proliferating. The progression toward the full-blown American Romantic organ of the 1870s, spurred on by a growing number of European-trained organists, had already begun.

In 1890 Emmanuel Church purchased a larger organ from the George S. Hutchings firm (whose founder had once worked for Hook), placing it in the same chamber, and in 1891 the Hook organ was relocated to a similar position in the chancel of Christ Church in Rochester. In 1919 it was rebuilt and electrified by the M. P. Möller firm, and rebuilt and enlarged again in 1938 by Buhl & Blashford of Utica. By this time, while many original ranks of pipes remained, its original character had largely been lost, and it eventually became mechanically unreliable.

III. E. & G. G. HOOK & HASTINGS, Opus 1573, 1893

St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Portland, Maine, founded in 1830, erected its second building, designed by P. W. Ford of Boston, in 1887. At first Hook & Hastings #778, installed in 1874 in the earlier building, was moved to the gallery of the new building, but when the larger #1573 was installed during the Pastorate of Rev. Edward J. Hurley, it was moved to the lower church, where it was later destroyed, only a few sets of pipes being salvaged. Inscriptions found inside the 1893 organ indicate that it was cleaned in 1905 by “L. L.” (presumably Louis Lahaise) of the Hook & Hastings firm, and again by H. C. Harrison of Portland (formerly of Hook & Hastings) in 1914 and 1948. In 1964 it was renovated by the Andover Organ Co., and several tonal alterations made, particularly in the Choir division, at least one involving some of the salvaged pipes from #778. When the church was closed in 2001, the organ was put up for sale, and eventually dismantled and placed in storage by the Andover Organ Company and David Wallace.  


             In the fall of 2011, Eastman School of Music’s new organ curator, Mark Austin, was reviewing instruments currently listed with the Organ Clearing House in hopes of finding available 19th century mechanical action instruments to place in practice rooms at Eastman.   This was in line with the bigger vision of the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative which seeks to make Rochester a global center for organ performance, research, building, and preservation of all types and styles of pipe organs. The Eastman School of Music has begun to assemble a collection of new and historic organs unparalleled in North America.

Mr. Austin has a particular interest in 19th century American organbuilding, and had been studying the history of the organs in Christ Church, Rochester, and in particular the fate of Hook # 308, when he came across the listing for Hook & Hastings # 1573.  While you can see from the compared stoplists there is some tonal re-thinking in the 31 years between the two organs, they are remarkably similar, right down to the reversed consoles and the 27 note pedalboards.


            It was determined that #1573 could be placed in the exact location and layout as #308 had been placed in 1891.  While slightly different from a tonal perspective than #308, it is still an historically appropriate replacement, and certainly a grand foil to the 18th century “Casparini” organ in the rear gallery.

As #1573 was a good fit from both physical and musical perspectives, the organ’s condition needed to be assessed and funding had to be found for the restoration and relocation of the instrument.  By luck, David Wallace of David Wallace Pipe Organs, Inc. of Gorham, Maine had been the firm that removed and packed the organ when it was taken out of St. Dominic’s.   Mr. Wallace also had grown up playing the organ in its original location, so was extremely familiar with the instrument on many fronts.

An analysis of the organ found it to be dirty, but in quite good condition…an excellent candidate for restoration.  One of the obstacles to overcome, however, was a tonal revision made to the organ in 1964 by the Andover Organ Company.  It is part of EROI’s vision to understand instruments in their original form both tonally and mechanically, so it was the intention to return the organ to its 1893 specification.  The 1964 changes were made to the Swell and Choir divisions to make them more “modern”.  While organbuilders, including Andover, would never make these kinds of changes today, this was common practice in the 1960’s and 70’s.

1893 SWELL
Bourdon 16′
Violin Diapason 8′
Viole 8′

Stopped Diapason 8′
Violina 4′
Flauto Traverso 4′
Flautino 2′

Cornopean 8′
Oboe 8′

1893 CHOIR
Geigen Principal 8′
Melodia 8′
Dulciana 8′
Flute d’Amour 4′

Piccolo 2′

Clarinet 8′ (TC)

1964 SWELL
Bourdon 16

Viole 8′
Viole Celeste 8′ TC (4′ Violina)
Stopped Diapason 8′
Principalflote 4′ (Ch. Geigen Principal cut up)

Flautino 2′
Scharff III (replacing Violin Diapason)
Clarion 4′ (using Cornopean pipes)
Oboe 8′

1964 CHOIR

Copula 8′ (Flute from #778)

Flute d’Amour 4′
Nazard 2 2/3′ (using Dulciana Pipes))
Piccolo 2′
Tierce 1 3/5′ (from miscellaneous pipework)
Clarinet 8′ (TC)

By a happy circumstance, many of the pipes needed to restore #1573 to its original specification had survived the several rebuilds of #308 at Christ Church.  The remaining pipes needed were from Hook #821 and Hook & Hastings #2316.  The singular addition to this organ is a 16’ Trombone from William A. Johnson Op. 66, 1857.  Johnson Op. 66 lived a mere six blocks away from St. Dominic’s in Portland.  This type of addition is in keeping with the Hook’s style of building as this stop would have been the most common 4th pedal rank in their organs of the period.  It was added on a new chest, keeping all the original Hook & Hastings chests intact and unaltered.

With funding secured, thanks wholly to a generous donation from the Kilian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt Foundation, a contract was signed with Mr. Wallace to do a complete restoration of the instrument.  Mr. Wallace’s firm was chosen both due to his excellent reputation as a restorer of Hook organs, and his intimate knowledge of this particular instrument.

Restoration work in Maine was completed in April of 2012, where the instrument was played in an open house at Mr. Wallace’s shop. The instrument was then crated and shipped to Rochester for installation in Christ Church.  The installation crew consisted of Mr. Wallace’s employees, as well as staff, faculty, and students from the Eastman School.  As part of a Spring 2012 organ technical class, Eastman students helped to recreate late 19th century poly-chroming and stenciling on the façade pipes similar to what might have been done in the original 1891 installation.  Consultants for the project were Barbara Owen, George Bozeman, and Mark Nelson.

The organ was inaugurated in a recital on November 30, 2012, featuring organists Edoardo Bellotti, David Higgs, Stephen Kennedy, and William Porter, harpist Kathleen Bride, cellist Rosemary Elliott, and members of the Christ Church Schola Cantorum and Christ Church Choir.  In addition, Vanessa Van Wormer provided choreography.

Photo by Stephen Kennedy

Photo by Stephen Kennedy


Photo by Stephen Kennedy

Photo by Stephen Kennedy