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Schoenstein & Company, 1979

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Published on May 24, 2009

As reported by Jerry Jensen in this video from June 2, 1979, Schoenstein & Co. is the oldest and largest organ factory in the Western United States. The Schoenstein family has been building distinguished instruments for five generations. The firm started in the Black Forest of Germany in the mid-19th century with branches in Odessa, St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Stuttgart among others.
In 1868, Felix F. Schoenstein came to San Francisco representing his father and brothers. By 1877 he established his independent firm—the most consistently steadfast and successful company in the history of organ building on the Pacific coast. The popularity of American-Romantic tonal style and a reputation for integrity have widened Schoensteins horizons to the entire nation and Canada.
Due both to Schoensteins then-remote location and to its founder's inventiveness and curiosity, a policy of continuing study and training by constant exposure to the past and current work of other organ builders became a tradition.
First, each son of each generation has been sent to train with other firms. For example, Felix's son, Louis, worked for E.M. Skinner. Louis' son, Lawrence, and later his grandson Terrence, joined Æolian-Skinner. Second, Schoensteins service department, now the largest in the West, has brought them experience installing, tuning and repairing nearly every make of organ in America. Third, beginning after the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, the builder has accomplished a monumental number of organ renovations. Schoensteins historic factory and archive is on the National Register of Historic Places and is San Francisco Landmark No. 99. It is one of the few purpose-built, unaltered pipe organ factories in the world. Today it houses the builders pipe and voicing facilities as well as records and artifacts of their first century of organ building and one of the largest archives of pipe organ books, periodicals and historical records in the West.
Schoensteins corporate office and main plant is a modern, state-of-the-art 30,000 square foot building in historic Benicia, 35 miles north east of San Francisco. Known as a gateway to the Napa Valley wine country, Benicia was a 19th century California capital and provides a pleasant atmosphere for the companys staff and visitors. They are especially proud of their equipment and plant layout, which promote the most accurate and efficient methods for the craft. They have assembled an array of wood and metal working machinery representing the very best names in the industry—Oliver, Whitney, Northfield, Buss, Mattison, Moak, Tannewitz, Root, Besly, Monarch and Bridgeport—among others. Schoensteins 42-foot tall erecting room with bridge crane is large enough to accommodate any size project with ease.

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