Chris Walton and Austin Storo of Foley-Baker prepare the Hilbus organ for transfer from Strawbery Banke under the watchful eye of Lawrence J. Yerdon, museum president and CEO.

 Strawbery Banke Museum Makes Important Gift to National Organ Historical Society

 Portsmouth, New Hampshire (January 2, 2018) – In a fitting conclusion to a year that saw Strawbery Banke Museum making significant contributions to city, local and state historical and collaborative initiatives, in December the museum de-accessioned an antique cabinet organ and the  transfer of the rare musical instrument to the collection of the Organ Historical Society.


In July, following up on initial discussions between the museum and the Society, Bill Czelusniak, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for The Organ Historical Society and President of Messrs. Czelusniak et Dugal, Inc., Organbuilders inspected the Hilbus organ stored in the museum Carter Collections Center and determined that, with reconditioning, it would be an excellent example to add to the Organ Historical Society collection for research and study by scholars of the instrument. In his report on the specific condition of the organ pipes, pedals and cabinet he noted, “The instrument is a ’very antique’ one manual tracker organ, with two stops/two ranks of pipes, foot-pumped of winding, and fully enclosed in a solid walnut cabinet with various opening doors and panels.” In summation he said “Even held protectively in its present condition, this instrument is a valuable example of early American craftsmanship” and declared the Hilbus organ as a historical artifact, “a tremendous gift to the OHS, and a worthy occupant of the new OHS Headquarters, Library and Archives in Stoneleigh at Villanova PA.”

Jacob Hilbus (1787-1858) was an immigrant from Westphalia, Germany who settled in Washington, DC and was known for being an organ and piano tuner and a music teacher. He was also an organ builder (and from all indications, the first) active in the Washington, D.C. area in the early 1800s. Few of his works survive. One was originally installed in Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia somewhere around 1811 or 1812 and is now in the care of the Smithsonian Institution.

After both the Strawbery Banke Museum board of Trustees and the OHS Board voted to approve the transfer, Byrum Petty, OHS Archivist commented, “We at the Organ Historical Society are grateful for the gift, and assure you that the organ will be in good hands for its safekeeping and eventual restoration.”


Lawrence J. Yerdon, president and CEO of Strawbery Banke commented, “The de-accession of this piece for transfer to an organization that will maximize the further study of the Hilbus in the formal research setting of the Organ Historical Society is exactly the kind of curation and collaboration Strawbery Banke seeks in all of the museum’s collecting and preservation efforts. Without specific Portsmouth connections, the Hilbus organ belongs with the OHS.”


On the recommendation of the Society, the organ was placed in the care of Foley-Baker, Inc. of Tolland, Connecticut, a nationally respected organ maintenance and restoration company, and is a long-time member of the Organ Historical Society.  Foley-Baker will restore the instrument to playing condition.

About Strawbery Banke Museum

Strawbery Banke Museum, in the heart of historic downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a 10-acre outdoor history museum dedicated to bringing 300+ years of American history to life.  The Museum is a place for children, adults, multigenerational families and groups to gather to explore heritage gardens, historic buildings, crafts, preservation programs, hands-on activities, stories told by costumed role-players and the changing exhibits that offer hours of fun and discovery.  The Museum’s restored buildings and open space invite visitors to immerse themselves in the past.  The Museum welcomes 95,000 visitors, members, schoolchildren and volunteers who love New Hampshire history for daily programs, exhibits, skating and signature special events throughout the year.  For a complete calendar of events, please visit