Schoenstein & Co. View Extant Instruments View Instruments


San Francisco, California, 1970-2004; Benicia, California, from 2004.
Classification: Builder

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November 06, 2015:

From the OHS Database Builders Listing editor, August 8, 2016. -

"The Schoenstein family has been building distinguished instruments for five generations. The firm started in the Black Forest of Germany in the mid-19th century with branches in Odessa, St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Stuttgart among others.

In 1868, Felix F. Schoenstein came to San Francisco representing his father and brothers. By 1877 he established his own independent firm. Felix Schoenstein & Sons did installation and service work for several of the Eastern builders (Aeolian-Skinner, Austin, Hook & Hastings) as well as building their own instruments. The family also established a policy of sending sons to work with the large companies in the Eastern United States for a few years before they returned to work with the family firm, thus keeping the company up to date with new technologies and trends in organbuilding.

In 1970, a major change occurred when the family sold the business to Jack Bethards. Felix Schoenstein and sons became Schoenstein & Co. Bethards had a background in the world of symphony orchestras, he brought a new perspective to organ design, particularly those instruments destined for concert halls. He also rethought the design of church organs where there was a renewed interest in choral accompaniment and service music rather than creating instruments designed to play a specific portion of standard organ recital repertoire.

"Our primary work is custom-building organs to the very highest standards of artistic and mechanical quality. Renovation of existing organs, particularly those of historical merit, continues to be an important part of our work."

Source: Schoenstein & Co. website,, Accessed Nov 6, 2015.

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on February 11, 2019.

October 30, 2004:

From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders by David H. Fox (Organ Historical Society, 1991). -

Formerly known as Felix F. Schoenstein & Sons; Active under this name in San Francisco by 1970.


  • Organ Handbook (OHS Press, 1989), 53.
  • Louis J. Schoenstein, Memoirs of a San Francisco Organ Builder (San Francisco: Cue Publications, 1977)

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on February 13, 2020.

Database Specs:

  • 155 Organs
  • 10 Divisions
  • 5 Consoles

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