News & Opinion | June 1, 2018 1:14 pm

This Vermont Town Has More Musical Organs Than It Can Handle

Once a former organ factory, Brattleboro strives to find new homes for the instruments.

Advertisement for Popular American Parlor Organ, Estey Organ Company, circa 1890. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Advertisement for Popular American Parlor Organ, Estey Organ Company, circa 1890. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
UIG via Getty Images

Brattleboro, Vermont was once the proud home of the Estey Organ Company factory. When the factory shut its doors in 1960, Brattleboro residents assumed the town’s reputation would untether itself from the musical instrument. But former Estey owners have been donating their organs back to the Brattleboro Historical Society now for decades, creating a glut of organs so large that the Historical Society’s Estey Organ Museum can’t even exhibit them all.

In fact, the historical society’s 200 organs may represent the largest collection of the musical instrument in the world.

So what does a museum do when it has too many organs and not enough space? The Historical Society now hosts “re-homing events,” where guests can walk through the storage space and adopt an organ if they like. Unless there’s an imminent organ renaissance, Brattleboro will remain one of the world’s foremost organ hubs.