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Devastating fire hits Iowa's world-famous Dobson Pipe Organ Builders

This aerial image of a fire Tuesday afternoon at Dobson Pipe Organ Builders in Lake City, Iowa, was posted as a public photo by Nathanial Brown Productions on Facebook.@NathanialBrownProductions

June 17, 2021

A devastating fire struck the world-famous Dobson Pipe Organ Builders in Lake City, Iowa, on Tuesday. The entire factory was destroyed by the 12-hour blaze, according to a report Wednesday morning by KCCI-Des Moines.

The company posted Tuesday on Facebook as the fire burned:

Amid the uncertainty over the damage and Dobson’s future, Michael Barone, who hosts American Public Media’s weekly organ show Pipedreams, offered his thoughts:

”Dobson Pipe Organ Builders has established itself as one of the foremost makers of pipe organs, with nearly 100 instruments in churches, schools, concert halls and homes throughout the United States, plus one in England. 

“Lynn Dobson ‘got his start’ with a project at Olivet Congregational Church in St. Paul.  Although technically his Opus 4, that organ was Lynn’s first significant instrument, and he brokered its success into a firm deserving of world acclaim, and a reputation bolstered by recent installations at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City and the University of Dubuque.  

“A large organ for a church in Australia (Opus 99) was under construction at the shop at the time of this devastating fire. Not only present projects, but also the company’s historic documents, and the personal, specialized tools of its craftspeople were all consumed by Tuesday’s conflagration. 

“Our heart goes out to the many employees and their families, and any clients whose future instruments now are in ruins.  It is a very, very sad situation requiring strength of purpose and good insurance.  While one employee suffered burns while trying to extinguish the fire, fortunately no lives were lost, and the 97 extant Dobson instruments remain as a testament to the firm’s accomplishments.”

UPDATE (June 17): On Thursday morning, John Panning, the president of Dobson, posted the following on Facebook, noting that all that remains of the company’s physical assets is on a U-Haul truck that was in Massachusetts for an organ installation: