Hooghuys Organ Pages
Part 3: nothing lasts forever …
The bloom of the Hooghuys firm lasted till the First World War; afterwards, the production was rather limited. Organs from before 1914-1918 were built up to the highest standards, without any compromise; instruments from after the war had be produced at a cheaper rate. To support his organ building business after 1918, Louis sold gramophones and records (a.o. of the Zonophone-company) – although he already did this before 1910: originally, these sales were not necessary as a source of income. It is also important to know that Louis was a very conservative man: illustrative is the fact that he refused to build organs with 12 basses; he kept to the old scale with 8 basses. Moreover, he didn't give several of his instruments a chromatic scale, while other organ builders did so.

Louis François died on 16 November 1924 after a protracted illness. After his death, the firm actually ceased to exist. The main reason for this stop were the disagreements between Louis' two eldest sons: Charles François (1878-1951) and Edmond François (1882-1963). One of the reasons for this discord was the fact that after the death of his first wife (Maria Hortensia De Vlaeminck, 1854-1912), Louis had married (in 1912) a much younger woman (Elisa Maetens, 1884-1918).

  Phonographes L.Hooghuys Grammont   The Hooghuys family  
Metal plate from the period when Louis Hooghuys also sold gramophones.
The Hooghuys family. From left to right: Edmond François Hooghuys, Charlotte de Nutte, her husband Charles François Hooghuys, Maria Hortentia de Vlaeminck, Louis Auguste Hooghuys, Louis François Hooghuys and Achille Hooghuys.
Charles François Hooghuys, born in Geraardsbergen on 15 April 1878, was the eldest son of Louis but was not so talented as Edmond both on craftmanship and music. For that reason, and because Louis François did better get on with Edmond, Louis François considered the latter as his successor – something Charles couldn't stand. Edmond kept on restoring and tuning organs until his death in 1963, while Charles stopped all activities at latest in 1939 (probably even earlier). Although there are some Hooghuys organs with the name "Ch.Hooghuys" on it, it should be mentioned that Charles François probably never built a completely new organ himself, but only finished some work that was left when his father died and maintained some organs. At the time of Louis' death, two organs were still to be completed: the LH650 (84-key) and LH670 (58-key), now both in the possession of Jasper Sanfilippo in Illinois (USA). Charles also assembled the 70-key CH660 (now owned by Teddy Reed in Amersham (UK)) and he provided some organs with a Hooghuys key frame: the CH655 (51-key, originally a Ruth), the CH665 (51-key, builder unknown), the CH675 (78-key, built by Pierre Eich, no longer extant) and the CH680 (73-key, originally a Wellershaus). Charles also maintained some organs.

After the death of Louis, Charles bought half of the factory building at the Place de la Station (the other part was sold to a furniture manufacturer). In that house, he opened a café for the brewery "Zeeberg" from Aalst; where he placed a Hooghuys dance organ (the LH620, now in possession of Bill Nunn (USA)). He sold this instrument to a showman in 1931. In 1938 Charles sold his house and workshop to the brewerey mentioned above but it was only in 1940 that he moved to another address (Kloosterstraat 24), while his only son Romain Charles took over the café for a while.

  Stamp of Charles Hooghuys   Place de la Station in Geraardsbergen  
Stamp of Charles Hooghuys. The address "Place de la Station" has been changed to "Place de la Gare".
Place de la Station/Gare in Geraardsbergen. The Hooghuys firm was located in the building marked with a yellow line. On this picture, the right half has already been sold to a furniture manufacturer.
Most people who have a Hooghuys organ, will undoubtedly know Romain Charles Hooghuys. He was born in Geraardsbergen on 22 July 1901. A lot of music patterns by Romain Charles have been preserved, dating from 1921 to 1931, which means that he has cut organ books for about eleven years. Around 1930 he also acted as a pianist in the local jazz-band "The Berkeley Boys". After that time he started a commerce in beer for the same brewery (Zeeberg) for which his father kept the café mentioned above. Probably he had this business until the outbreak of World War II, when he was drafted.

In 1944, Romain left Geraardsbergen for some reason, and went to live in Galmaarden (B). There he opened a shop for newspapers, magazines, stationery and sweets. He also had a commerce in coffee for a certain time, and was occasionally organist in the local church . In 1951, after his father's death, he moved back to Geraardsbergen with his family to live with his mother in the Kloosterstreet 12. Two years later, in 1953, he moved to the Belgian coast; he lived successively in Zuienkerke, Lissewege, Wenduine, Zeebrugge and Brugge.

It was in Lissewege in about 1955 that he purchased the LH615 (83-key), which is now in the museum at Utrecht (NL), and from then on he sporadically started cutting cardboard music again. In the early sixties, he bought the LH507 (93-key), a dance organ with the Gavioli G4-scale (the Hooghuys firm built several organs with this scale). Unfortunately, he dismantled this organ to have spare parts. In November 1963, he bought the 72-key LH518 – better known as the "Senior" – and from 1968 on, he played with that organ on a folkloristic market in Knokke-Heist (B) every year on Thursday afternoon during summer; it was from that time on that he started fulltime cutting organ books again.

Around 1965, he bought (at a comparatively low price) the LH605 (97-key), which he called the "Condor", and in October 1971, he purchased the LH552 (73-key), which is now in the possession of Romain's son Marc (now it is named "Albatross").

Romain Charles kept on arranging music for his organs until 1978, when he moved to Brugge, near the Boudewijnpark (a theme park). There he made about another ten books, but in about 1985, when his wife's health began to fail, he stopped cutting books for ever. On 15 December 1989, he died after being severely injured in an accident. His wife died on the day of his funeral …

Fortunately, Romain Charles has a worthy successor in his son, Marc Herwig Hooghuys, who is actually the last member of the Hooghuys family who engages himself in the world of mechanical organs. In this field, he does more than an excellent job. Apart from maintaining other Hooghuys organs, he also is working on the restoration of his own Hooghuys organ, the above mentioned 73-key "Albatross".

Romain Charles Hooghuys Early signature of Romain Charles Hooghuys Marc Hooghuys
Romain Charles – with the inevitable cigar – at his punching machine.
Early signature of Romain Charles Hooghuys
Marc Hooghuys working on LH553
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Page updated on 13.07.2012