Texas is home to many historic pipe organs meticulously restored by expert German organ builder Friedmann Buschbeck. Three of these treasured organs are located right here in Round Top. 

Growing up in East Germany, Buschbeck became interested in the art of restoring historic organs when he was in his twenties. A love of music, borne out of having two parents in the church choir and his attraction to all things mechanical, turned out to be the perfect formula for a career in organ restoration. He combined his passions and learned the trade during a three-year apprenticeship.

Buschbeck currently lives in Florida, but has worked on pipe organ restorations in central Texas for more than 25 years. In Round Top, he has restored organs for three antique churches including Haw Creek Church in Henkel Square, Bethlehem Lutheran Church and the Edythe Bates Chapel located on the Round Top Festival Institute campus.

“Round Top is home to 19th century pipe organs made from organ builders coming from Silesia (Germany), New York, and England,” Buschbeck writes in a chapter he penned for the Festival Hill’s 50th anniversary tome Festival Hill At Fifty: The History of Round Top Festival Institute.

“These organs have played hymns that many generations have all heard coming from the same organ across generations in families. It is important to keep this tradition.” A dedicated preservationist, Buschbeck adds: “Don’t change anything. . . everything can be repaired.” 

If he’s around, it certainly can.

The most famous of Round Top’s three pipe organs was built by German immigrant Johann Traugott Wandke. Built in 1863, this humble piece sits on the stage in the Edith Bates Chapel on the Round Top Festival Institute campus. The organ was the first of six built by Traugott Wandke in Texas and is one of two rare pieces in Round Top with wooden pipes. It is crafted entirely out of cedarwood and leather using only hand tools.

Buschbeck brought the Traugott Wandke organ back to life following its donation to Festival Hill 1996, and oversaw its careful installation at the Festival Hill chapel. 

The Edythe Bates Chapel is also home to the oldest organ in Round Top. Built in 1835 by world-famous 19th century organ builder Henry Erban, this gorgeous work of art features elegant golden details on its metal pipes. This piece, also restored by Buschbeck, is featured front-and-center inside the church.

Round Top’s Bethlehem Lutheran Church (located behind Prost on Block 29) is home to a second Traugott Wandke organ also restored by Buschbeck. The church’s historic cedar pipe organ still gets used from time to time. And if you’re lucky enough to get a chance to hear it played, you’ll be struck by its dreamy music box quality. 

The Bethlehem Lutheran Church organ was dedicated on January 13, 1867 ― the same day that the church’s congregation was formally organized. This is the largest of six organs that Wandke built in Texas, and as of 1987, it was one of only three surviving cedar organs. 

The picturesque Haw Creek Chapel in Henkel Square Market is home to a more modern mechanical organ, built by schoolteacher Jack Wiederhold in Loebau. The organ was restored by Buschbeck and moved to Haw Creek’s chancel, which is home to the St. Cecilia’s community. Wiederhold still lives nearby in Serbin and assists Buschbeck when he is in Texas working on restoration projects. 

Buschbeck is currently restoring the 1915 Carl Barckhoff organ in the Martin Luther Church in Giddings. He expects the restoration to be completed this August.

The Carl Barckhoff organ at Martin Luther Church in Giddings

Learn more about Buschbeck and his Texas pipe organ restoration projects here. Also consider checking out Festival Hill’s 50th anniversary book Festival Hill At Fifty: The History of Round Top Festival Institute to learn more about its organs and the rich history and grandeur of Festival Hill. All the proceeds for this book go towards the care and restoration of the beloved Round Top performance venue.