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HOLTKAMP, WALTER

HOLTKAMP, WALTER (1 July 1894-12 Feb. 1962), internationally known organ builder and leader in traditional techniques of organ construction, was born in St. Marys, Ohio. His father, Henry, moved the family to Cleveland in 1903 to become a salesman for G. F. Votteler & Co., a small, regional organ builder. Eleven years later, the firm became the Votteler-Holtkamp-Sparling Organ Co. Walter began working in the company, joined the Army during WORLD WAR I, and in 1919 returned to the firm, becoming artistic director in 1931, upon his father's death. He dedicated his life to organ building, divorcing his wife and residing over the shop to be nearer to his work. He was first president of the Natl. Assoc. of Organ Builders in 1958 and represented America at an international convention in Amsterdam. Holtkamp could not play the organ, but, with his extraordinary ear, was convinced that the tone of organs being built in the 1930s and 1940s was impaired because their pipes were being placed everywhere (roof, basement) except in the same room as the organ itself. In 1933, Holtkamp installed the innovative Rack positive organ at the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART. Holtkamp also built organs for BALDWIN-WALLACE COLLEGE, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY, Oberlin College, MIT, Yale University, the Air Force Academy, and ST. JOHN CATHEDRAL and ST. PAUL'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH. He married Mary McClure and had 3 children: Mary, David, and Walter, Jr. who, in 1995, still owned and operated the Holtkamp Organ Co. Holtkamp died in Cleveland and was cremated.