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Society project restores square grand piano

Karen Schwartz, the president of the Historical Society of Harrison County, and Missi Bush-Sawtelle, vice president, consider themselves caretakers of many historical buildings and objects from the past.
Society project restores square grand piano
Society project restores square grand piano
This refurbished square grand piano, from 1860, now at home at the Posey House in Corydon, joins the assets of the Historical Society of Harrison County. Submitted photo
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

Karen Schwartz, the president of the Historical Society of Harrison County, and Missi Bush-Sawtelle, vice president, consider themselves caretakers of many historical buildings and objects from the past. With a goal to preserve, protect, promote and interpret the rich history of Harrison County, the society is working to do just that by adding a square grand piano from 1860 to their assets.

The Hallet & Davis piano with a rosewood cabinet was built in 1860 in Boston, Mass., just prior to the Civil War and has a new home at the Posey House in Corydon. Upon inspection in 2017, the piano was not playable or tunable and needed a complete restoration. The restoration, done by David Dawson of Dawson Piano Care in Bloomington, required hundreds of hours of labor during a period of almost two years.

Schwartz explained that while the society had not worked with Dawson previously they knew he came highly recommended; otherwise, they wouldn’t have known where to begin with the restoration project.

“We received a $5,000 grant from the Indiana Arts Commission and the Harrison County Community Foundation to complete the restoration,” Schwartz said. “Thankfully, David Dawson has tuned Missi’s piano for around 30 years, and we are just so lucky that he bought into this project. David went well past the call of duty on the exterior of it as well. We expected him to make it play, but he has made it so beautiful on the outside as well. It is art.”

Because there aren’t many pianos of this style left that are functioning, Dawson was more than excited to join  the restoration project. While he normally only tunes pianos, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be involved in the project.

“This is a transitional piano,” Dawson said. “It makes a different noise than pianos of today. There’s no wippen on this style of piano, which makes it a bit harder to play. As the piano adjusts to the environment it is in now and the strings begin to stretch and relax, I will have to come in at least two or three times this year to tune it and check in on it. I’m very happy to do that though because it means I get to play and admire it again.”

With a complete restoration finally complete on the square grand piano, Bush-Sawtelle explained the society would love to have performances at the Posey House for the community.

“Our dream with the piano is to have performances where everyone can hear wonderful music,” Bush-Sawtelle said. “In the summertime, Halloween and even Christmas, we would love to put a microphone on it and have music playing throughout town. This piano has history, and we hope to save the past for the future.”

 

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