In April 2017, when I offered to work on researching and documenting the history of our Seventh Avenue pipe organ, Estey Opus #2886, little did I know where that path would lead me and the many doors that would be opened along the way. I shouldn’t have been surprised: my initial inquiry to the Brattleboro Historical Society was answered within a few hours, and shared with trustees and volunteers, including retired attorney, John Carnahan. Soon he sent me a large package containing copies of all the correspondence and order records related to our organ. They revealed the careful planning & design that went into Opus #2886 and helped the Organ Committee decide to pursue restoring this historically important organ at a time when many churches are abandoning theirs.
As a retired archivist, I was interested in finding out what other records might still exist for the 3000 or so pipe organs Estey built prior to closing in 1960. While visiting Boston in Fall 2018, I traveled to Brattleboro to meet John Carnahan and visit the Estey Organ Museum, founded by local publisher & historic preservationist, Barbara George. During our behind-the-scenes tour of an upper floor in one of the original Estey buildings, I noticed a room filled with boxes of dusty envelopes that really needed some care. I thought I might be able to help and suggested returning to clean and stabilize this part of the collection that Barbara had rescued along with the 8 original Estey buildings. They said yes, come! Exciting news, which I shared with Jack Bethards, President and Tonal Director of Schoenstein Organ Builders of Benicia, the firm that’s restoring our organ. He gave me a crash course in how organ records and drawings are created, used and maintained, and offered to stay in touch during my visit.
So, on Wednesday morning September 11, John, Barbara and I climbed the stairs to an upper floor of Estey Building 7-8, and began our work to examine, clean and organize the Organ envelopes before transferring them into clean archival boxes. Work that often seems ordinary and routine to me became exciting as we uncovered drawings, installation notes, paint and wood samples, and sometimes photographs, for many important organs throughout the U.S. Our work became even more important when a reporter from The Common’s, the local weekly, visited and found our work so interesting as to be worthy of frontpage story! See http://www.commonsnews.org/site/sitenext/story.php?articleno=31049
Although the boxes did not contain an envelope for our Estey Opus #2886, it somehow seems fitting that nearly 90 years to the day since the order for Opus #2886 was placed, someone from Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church has established a new relationship with descendants of the Estey Organ Company of Brattleboro, Vermont.
We’re pleased to present the October 2019 issue of our Seventh AveNews church newsletter. It is packed full of important information and fun photos, so be sure to check it out!
CLICK HERE to download a PDF copy!