E. and G.G. Hook & Hastings
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E. and G.G. Hook was a pipe organ designing and manufacturing company, located in Boston, Massachusetts, which operated from 1827 to 1935. It was started, and originally run, by brothers Elias and George Greenleaf Hook.
When the Hook brothers were getting ready to retire, in 1871, Frank Hastings joined the firm, at which point the name was changed to E. and G.G. Hook & Hastings. When the Hook brothers retired (in 1881), the name was shortened to Hook and Hastings. In its day, Hook was the premier organ building company in the United States.
The Hook brothers were sons of a cabinet maker in Salem, Massachusetts. They apprenticed with the organ builder William Goodrich.
The Hook firm built over 2,000 pipe organs, many of which are still extant today. Some remain in unaltered, original condition, such as the three-manual instrument at First Unitarian Church in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts; others have been tonally and/or physically altered due to changing trends in the organ world during the 20th century.
The largest extant organ built by the firm is their opus 801 built in 1875 for the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts. This instrument comprises 101 ranks over 3 manuals and pedal. Among the more notable features of this instrument are likely a result of having to fill such a large space; namely the use of imported reeds from Zimmerman of Paris, bold mixtures, cornets and a Tuba Mirabilis made in the Hook factory. This instrument exists in a mechanically altered state having been electrified, however; it largely remains tonally original.
The 1880s also saw the establishment of the Hook & Hastings organ factory, by far the largest of the Weston’s mills and industries. The owner, Francis Henry Hastings (1836–1916) was born at 199 North Avenue and educated at the nearby District School #4 in Weston. His formal education ended at age 14, when he left Weston to apprentice at a Boston machine shop. At age 19, he joined the firm of E. & G.G. Hook, makers of some of the century’s greatest church and concert hall organs. Some three decades later, after the death of the Hook brothers, Hastings became head of the prestigious firm. He decided to relocate the factory from Roxbury Crossing to the farm fields across from his boyhood home. Because the Weston, MA had no zoning regulations, nothing prevented construction of a factory in this rural setting, nor did local residents seem to object. The huge wooden building, 280 feet long and three to four stories high, stood on Viles Street just north of the railroad tracks. It was visible from great distances in the deforested landscape. Proximity to the rail line made it easy to bring in supplies and ship the finished organs throughout the United States.
Hastings built his own Shingle style home, Seven Gables, at 190 North Avenue, with a stable and a caretaker’s house across the street. He also built about a dozen single and double cottages for his workers, located in small clusters on Viles Street, North Avenue, White Lane (now Brook Road), and Lexington Street. Housing was part of his plan to create a harmonious workplace at Kendal Green. The headline of an 1890 article in the Boston Herald called it “A Community of Labor” and “An Object Lesson for Employers and Employed—the Labor Experiment at Kendal Green. . . A Neighborhood Like a Family.” Hastings provided for recreation and social activities undoubtedly much needed in rural Weston. The Kendal Club sponsored debates, concerts, plays, dances, and suppers at Hastings Hall, a community center that also had a library, reading room, and game room. The playground on Viles Street and Brook Road, now owned by the Town of Weston, was used by the organ factory baseball team.
The Hook & Hastings organ factory was by far the largest industry in Weston. The huge wooden building (above) stood on Viles Street, just north of the railroad tracks, from the late 1880s until it was demolished in 1936. The company's organs ranged in size from eight to eighty feet and were shipped all over the country. The manufacture of these large and complex instruments often took years and required a variety of skilled tradesmen. Hastings once remarked that he needed “every branch of mechanics. . . workmen in wood, in metal, in leather, knowledge of music and acoustics, architecture, electricity, pneumatics, hydraulics. . .” He maintained relationships with European organ builders and employed many Scandinavian workers. In busy times, the men worked ten hours a day, six days a week, and shipped out approximately one organ a week.
Weston was once home to the Hook & Hastings Co. organ factory at Viles Street and North Avenue, a nationally known company. From 1889 to the mid-1930s, skilled workers built some of the world’s largest church and concert organs at the 280-foot-long wooden factory building.Hook & Hastings Co. closed its doors in 1935, a victim of changing times and the Depression. In its 108 years of operation in both Boston and Weston, E. and G.G. Hook and Hook & Hastings produced an estimated 2,614 organs ranging in size from eight to 80 feet. These included organs for First Parish and St. Peter’s Church in Weston, Weston College, Wellesley College, the College of Music in Wellesley, and the Unitarian church in Wellesley Hills.
- Fox, Pamela W (June 2002). Farm Town to Suburb: The History and Architecture of Weston, Massachusetts, 1830-1980. Weston MA: Love Lane Press. p. 677. ISBN 978-1-931807-01-2.
Fox, Pamela W. "KENDAL GREEN "A Neighborhood Like A Family"". Wellesley Weston Magazine. Retrieved August 25, 2008.