Founder Leonard G. Berghaus’s interest in pipe organ building was largely spurred by the installation of a new Beckerath pipe organ back in 1956 at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Cleveland, Ohio. With the church located close to his home, the teen-aged Berghaus made frequent visits to the church to observe the progress of the installation.
Mr. Berghaus eventually left Cleveland, Ohio to attend school at Concordia Teachers College (now Concordia University – Chicago), located in River Forest, Illinois. While still attending school, he embarked on the task of rebuilding the slider wind chests of an 1888 Jackson Organ, located at St. Matthew Lutheran Church on the South Side of Chicago. Mr. Berghaus’s interest in the installation of the new instrument at Trinity Lutheran Cleveland and his newly-found intrigue with investigating and finding solutions to the problems of the St. Matthew instrument combined to expand his interest in pipe organ building.
In 1967, while Leonard Berghaus was teaching fifth and sixth grade, he was approached by John F. Shawhan, the Midwest service and sales representative of Casavant Frères of Canada, to take over a dozen or so contracts to provide semi-annual service and maintenance for new Casavants located from Des Moines to Fort Wayne. While not initially intending to become an organbuilder, Mr. Berghaus left teaching after November of 1967 to begin nurturing what would become Berghaus Pipe Organ Builders, Inc.
The company constructed its first mechanical action instrument for the O’Fallon United Church of Christ, in southern Illinois. This mechanical action instrument was entirely built in the Berghaus’s garage in Melrose Park, Illinois and was completed in 1973. This instrument continues to play as it did the day was installed.
After the success of the O’Fallon UCC instrument, Leonard Berghaus was able to continue selling smaller, two-manual mechanical action instruments. Eventually, the design of Mr. Berghaus’s instruments started to incorporate electric sliders to facilitate preset systems as part of their features, and even electric pull-downs which allowed for completely detached organ consoles.
Late in 1973, Leonard Berghaus moved production from his garage and basement to a 4,000 square foot facility in nearby Bellwood, Illinois. With only 13′ high ceilings, Berghaus Organ Company (as it was known then) was still able to design and construct instruments that stood significantly taller; however, to facilitate a more efficient fabrication and design process, a new two-story erecting room and design offices were added to the facility in 1984.
While both of Leonard’s sons, Todd and Brian, would work in the business at some time or another, it would be Brian Berghaus who would remain and grow with the company, eventually becoming its Vice President in 1999 and President in 2004. To mark the new era of Berghaus organs, the name of the firm was officially changed to Berghaus Pipe Organ Builders, Inc. around this time.
Brian brings with him a wealth of knowledge in chest construction and high-end woodworking, along with a deep desire to lead an effective team. With a drive to improve the process of organbuilding, Brian focused first on developing a strong and highly-qualified team of experts who regularly collaborate to yield optimal results in organbuilding.
Another key focus of Brian Berghaus is productivity. Knowing that the old workshop had its limitations due to size, in 2001 Berghaus Pipe Organ Builders, Inc. relocated from their 6,700 square foot shop to a 30,000 square foot production facility located within a mile from the former plant. With the added square footage, Berghaus Pipe Organ Builders was able to obtain more numerous, varied and efficient tools, and easily handle multiple large projects at a time. Some of the newest technologies recently added to the workshop include a large-format CNC machine and a 3-D printer, which not only enhances production but also create the opportunity for in-house prototyping.
Today, having built or rebuilt over 200 instruments across the country, Berghaus Pipe Organ Builders, Inc. continues to advance, leading the pipe organ industry in the design and fabrication of exceptional pipe organs. With a passionate emphasis on both tonal and visual design, Berghaus Pipe Organ Builders, Inc. cultivates the making of exceptional music by producing the highest quality instruments for true artists.