Holtkamp Organ Company
... more than 150 years of Pipe Organ Building
The Holtkamp Organ Company traces its lineage back over a century to 1855 when G.F. Votteler established a shop for the manufacture of organs in Cleveland, Ohio.

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The Holkamp Timeline


One of America's oldest and most respected pipe organ builders, the Holtkamp Organ Company traces its lineage back over a century to 1855 when G.F. Votteler established a shop for the manufacture of organs in Cleveland, Ohio. Since its founding, management of the company has included two generations of Vottelers and four generations of Holtkamps. In 1903, the first of the Holtkamps, Herman Heinrich, came from St. Mary's, Ohio to join the then retiring Henry Votteler. Control of the company, now named Votteler Holtkamp Sparling Company passed to Herman's son Walter in 1931. The Holtkamp Organ Company emerged in 1951 and continues today. In 1956 Walter Holtkamp, Jr. became associated with his father, assuming control of the firm in 1962. In 1987 F. Christian Holtkamp joined the firm, the fourth generation of Holtkamps to be active in this small Cleveland Company dedicated to the art of organ building.

During The Votteler years, the first instruments were built in and around Cleveland, Ohio. The work was primarily mechanical action. The instruments were generally one or two manual, with robust construction and ornate casework.

Henry Holtkamp constructed numerous instruments in his 30 years of organ building. His work was primarily regional, ranging from Pennsylvania to the Dakotas and from Michigan to Kentucky. His work reflected the aesthetic of his time, that of the orchestrally oriented organ. Henry Holtkamp devoted a large part of his time and efforts endeavoring to duplicate the sounds of the symphony orchestra. Many of his instruments continue in use today.

Under the direction of Walter Holtkamp, Sr. (1894-1962) the reputation of the company grew until it became known as one of the finest in the country. Holtkamp was an early pioneer of the "organ reform movement" in this country. The organ reform movement was a departure from the orchestrally oriented tones of the previous generations. Musicians and organ builders sought a return to the centuries old aesthetic of the pipe organ as an instrument of church and church oriented music. The literature of the organ reform movement was the traditional literature of such composers as Bach, Buxtehude, Couperin and Frescobaldi rather than organ transcriptions of Wagner and other 19th century orchestral composers.

Walter Holtkamp, Jr. succeeded his father as head of the company in 1962. Under his leadership the firm has maintained its reputation as one of America's leading designers and builders of organs. Soon after assuming control, Walter Holtkamp, Jr. introduced the principle of mechanical key action to the firm, thus realizing a goal attempted by his father in the mid-thirties but abandoned because America was not yet ready to accept this then radical idea in organ building. During his tenure, significant instruments, of both mechanical and electro pneumatic action left the firm each year. Walter Holtkamp, Jr. retired in 1997.

In 1987 F. Christian Holtkamp entered into partnership with his father. Since that time he has had many responsibilities throughout the firm, including: tuning and maintenance, management of the company pipe shop, company draftsman, voicing, and director of tonal design. In 1995 he became President and Managing Director of the firm with responsibility for all operations in the shop. In 1997 he assumed all responsibilities for sales and visual design. This, combined with his his experience as an organist, including a Master of Music Degree in organ performance, provides an exceptionally broad background for the leadership of the firm. He currently designs and coordinates all essential details of each instrument that the firm produces, including tonal design, scaling, voicing, structural design, and visual design. This results in instruments which are exceptionally well balanced and coordinated in all their many elements, and a very high degree of consistent quality from year to year.

The Holtkamp firm is much the same today as it was in 1922 when it opened its new factory at 2909 Meyer Avenue. It remains small, employing about fifteen skilled craftsmen. In fact the firm may well be of optimum size for the production of pipe organs; large enough to allow the employ of specialists in certain phases of the art of organ building yet small enough for the proprietor to a assume direct control in every phase of the numerous projects that leave the factory every year.


2909 Meyer Avenue | Cleveland, Ohio 44109 | Tel. 216.741.5180 | Fax 216.741.0678

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