Pipe Organ Database

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Edward F. Searles View Extant Instruments View Instruments


Methuen, Massachusetts, c. 1886.
Classification: Corporate Officer

Update This Entry
October 26, 2015:

See main entry: James Treat & Co.

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on April 09, 2020.

October 16, 2015:

Note from the Organ Database Builders editor Stephen Hall, October 26, 2015. -

Edward Searles' father died in 1844, he worked in a local mill as early as age 12 and later as a stock boy in the Lawrence, Massachusetts dry goods store. He showed an early penchant toward art and music, and began taking piano lessons. He learned quickly and in a few years started earning a living by giving piano lessons. His artistic talents were further developed by organ lessons in Boston; a period in Bath and Gardiner, Maine, where he taught piano and organ, as well as worked as a carpenter's apprentice; and by the study of architectural drawing at a Boston art school.

He secured a sales position with the Boston interior decoration firm of Paul and Company. During his time with the company, he received numerous promotions and a sizable income. Searles then joined the prestigious interior decoration firm of Herter Brothers in New York; whose clientele included the most affluent people in the country.

At Herter Brothers, he contributed to the design of several mansions, including those of the Vanderbilt family. His work won the admiration and approval of his employers and their clients. As a result, the commissions from these projects gained Searles considerable wealth. By 1881, his financial independence allowed him to work only occasionally. A particularly troublesome bout with rheumatism led him to plan a trip to the warmer climate of California. Although the trip was principally for his health, he agreed to visit several of Herter Brothers' West Coast clients. In San Francisco, he visited the widow of Mark Hopkins, one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad. Mary Frances Sherwood Hopkins (1819 - 1891), originally from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, was immediately taken with the cultured and refined East Coast gentleman who had come to inspect her Nob Hill mansion. Despite the difference in age (she was twenty-two years older than he), a romantic relationship evolved, they were married in November, 1887.

The couple shared an interest in architecture and interior decoration, and lived happily together until her death in July, 1891. Her entire estate was left to her husband, with the result that at age fifty, Searles' personal wealth included over twenty-one million dollars and vast real estate holdings in New York, San Francisco, Great Barrington and Methuen. For the remainder of his life, Searles satisfied his love for the arts by building mansions and collecting art treasures. He acquired acres of land surrounding his birthplace in Methuen, and there built a huge castle-like estate.

One of the treasures Searles had purchased was the organ built for the Boston Music Hall by E.F. Walcker and Company of Ludwigsburg, Germany. In 1899, Searles set about rebuilding the organ and providing a new home for it in Methuen. He commissioned Henry Vaughan (1845-1917) to design a concert hall for the express purpose of housing the organ in the visual and acoustical setting that he felt it deserved. The resulting structure, Serlo Organ Hall [now Methune Music Hall], is probably the only instance in history in which a hall of such proportions and magnificence has been built for the sole purpose of housing an organ. See database entry at E.F. Walcker & Cie. - Opus 200 (OHS Database ID 1097)


We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on November 20, 2019.

October 30, 2004:

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

Born July 4, 1841 in Methuen, Massachusetts; architect, interior decorator; with Herter Brothers of New York City, 1860s, with firm in California, 1881; partner with James Treat in Methuen, Massachusetts, c. 1886 as James Treat & Co. {Methuen Organ Co.}; with U.S. Tubular Bell Co.; died 1920 in Methuen, Massachusetts.

Staff: John M. Ingraham.


  • Orpha Ochse, The History of the Organ in the United States (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), 242.
  • Barbara Owen, The Organ in New England (Raleigh: Sunbury Press, 1979), 412.

We received the most recent update for this note from Database Manager on November 20, 2019.

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