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Roosevelt, Opus 494 [1891]

This 1891-vintage pipe organ, which received Citation #50 as a noteworthy historic American pipe organ by the Organ Historical Society, was acquired by Zarex Corporation / Pro Organo in November, 2019.  UPDATE:  As of July 28, 2020 ownership of the organ shall be transferred to a new owner, with the intent that it shall be restored or renovated, and placed in the sanctuary of religious institution within the next two years.  The new owners and institution shall be disclosed upon the completion of transfer and / or delivery to the new owner.

Background and Current Status of the 1891-vintage Roosevelt Opus 494

The Roosevelt Organ Works was founded in 1872 by two Roosevelt brothers: Hilborne (1849-1886) and Frank (1862-1895). The Roosevelt firm operated in New York City, Baltimore and Philadelphia through 1893. Roosevelt organs are prized for superior quality and tone.

Roosevelt’s Opus 494 has 25 stops distributed over two-manuals and pedal. It was installed in St. James Church in Chicago in 1891.  It was played for the Mass for many years by the renowned organ virtuoso, composer and teacher, Wilhelm Middelschulte (1863-1943).

Information about this organ may be accessed through these two links:

Sadly, St. James Church sanctuary was deemed structurally unsound, and this led to its demolition over a decade ago. Prior to the demolition, the church arranged for professional removal and transport of the Roosevelt Opus 494 organ to the basement of a nearby Chicago parish: St. Mary of the Angels. The Opus 494 organ had been offered for sale at the suggested price of only USD $40,000 while in storage, but remained unsold. The organ sat under heavy tarps for almost a decade, until 2019, when the basement area it occupied was chosen as the site for a new, large heating and air-conditioning system. This new construction ßcould not be delayed, as the parish’s century-old original boiler was beginning to fail in early 2019.

In September, 2019, the organ faced imminent destruction by removal into construction dumpsters. In October, 2019, Frederick Hohman, founder and principal producer of the ProOrgano label of Compact Disc recordings, stepped forward and made arrangements with the parish administrator to acquire ownership of Roosevelt Opus 494. Mr. Hohman directed the relocation of the instrument from St. Mary of the Angels’ basement to a climate-controlled staging facility on the outskirts of Fort Wayne, Indiana. As of this date, Roosevelt Opus 494 has been rescued from destruction. What happens next depends on the response of someone reading this page!

Originally, Roosevelt Opus 494 spoke into a spacious and reverberant sanctuary, seating up to 2000, and pipes are scaled accordingly.  Mr. Hohman now seeks a parish or educational institution with a large, resonant acoustic as well as the funding to engage an experienced organ-builder, for completing a new installation of this American organ, one that is both historically sensitive and practical.

Close inspection of the Opus 494 pipework indicates pipes made by Leonard Gutfleisch and August Reinhart Schopp. The date of Opus 494 places these pipes prior to the 1898 Gutfleisch & Schopp pipe-making partnership. (Gutfleisch and Schopp are forerunners of today’s A. R. Schopp’s Sons pipe-making firm.) Opus 494 received Citation #50 from the Organ Historical Society in 1984.

New owners and details on its placement in a new worship space shall be disclosed following delivery of the organ to new owners.