Hidden among the houses on the east side of Parkland, WA lies Paul Fritts and Company Organ Builders. Known throughout the world for their quality, Paul Fritts and Company Organ Builders has designed and brought to life over 40 organs. But why would the workshop of a world-class organ company be a part of the small Parkland community? “It’s inexpensive and all of our suppliers are nearby,” says Paul Fritts, the organ expert himself. It’s true that most of the materials that Paul and his company use are carefully selected from the Pacific Northwest (including Tacoma, Seattle, and Auburn) but there’s more to the story than that. Paul grew up in the Tacoma area and his family home is located directly beside the workshop. His father was a professor and musician but also repaired organs, letting Paul help with the job. This is how he found his passion for building organs.
The Parkland location also provides the right amount of inconspicuousness. “We don’t get a lot of visitors which is good because we can get a lot of our work done,” Paul says. And a lot of work they must do. One organ requires thousands of pieces and can take over three years to build. Paul and his team of nine men work with wood, metal, and other materials to make every one of these pieces by hand. The workshop is just over 40 feet high and generously spacious as it must be tall enough to accommodate completed organs assembled at their full heights and wide enough to provide multiple workrooms to the team. One room is full of wood and power tools. Another room holds metal that has been hammered down into smooth sheets. There are other rooms as well, where loud pops and bangs echo through the walls (a sure sign that something important is happening).
To see some of the Paul Fritts and Company Organ Builders’ finished work, an organ is located inside neighboring Pacific Lutheran University’s Lagerquist Hall. Further across the U.S. in Indiana, the Basilica of the University of Notre Dame also houses a Paul Fritts and Co. organ (a process documented on the university’s website: https://magazine.nd.edu/basilica-organ/). The company has even ventured as far across the world as South Korea to deliver an organ to the Korean Baptist Theological University and Seminary in Taejon.