By 1850, Alvinza Andrews had become the proprietor of the sixth-largest organbuilding establishment in the United States. Shipping completed instruments on the New York canal system, and using local materials and personnel, he dramatically undercut his Boston and New York competition. To increase efficiency further, Andrews relocated the firm from Waterville, New York, to downtown Utica in 1852, literally along the southern bank of the Erie Canal.
Six years later, George N. Andrews became a partner with his father in A. Andrews & Son, and following the elder man’s death in 1862, succeeded him. The firm supplied many organs to the churches of New York and New England, and to some localities as distant as Ceylon, Hawaii, and India. In 1886, seeking better opportunities, George relocated the firm to Oakland, California, where he built a number of organs for churches in Oakland, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Following George’s death, his only son, Charles Backus Andrews, continued the firm until the catastrophic San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. Riding the highs and lows of the American economy, with changing transportation networks, personnel issues, war, and ever-evolving taste, the firm continued successfully through three generations.
The few Andrews organs that remain—unfortunately but a remnant of some 300 built—display a modesty and integrity that contributed significantly not only to the cultural fabric of their time, but continue to charm and beguile us today. This is the story of Alvinza and George N. Andrews of Utica, New York, and their work along the Erie and Chenango Canals.
301 pages, paperback.