FRIENDSVILLE - For vintage pianos, customers from all over the world turn to a business in Friendsville. The Antique Piano Shop restores pianos built before the Great Depression in 1929.
Many are much older than that. Some have been in families for generation while others have passed from owner to owner. If only those pianos could talk...
"Every piano here does have a story and part of our story is to discover what that story is," owner Michael Stinnett said.
His story is a lifelong love of pianos from playing to tuning to restoring. So it was a natural progression when Michael Stinnett founded The Antique Piano Shop in his hometown.
"We have 24 specialized craftsmen here who are restoring these pianos, frame up, start to finish and making them like brand new again," he said.
They may look and sound brand new, but each piano's history remains unique. Some are family heirlooms that remind people of their particular past while others are instruments Stinnett has collected that capture a moment in time.
"We have pianos that have signatures and actually have writing telling what somebody was doing that day, what the weather was like. We have a piano built in 1857 where the gentleman talks about he's leaving the piano business to become a policeman the next day," he said.
One piano arrived covered in black house paint. The previous owner found the artwork offensive because it featured nude figures. Removing the paint and restoring the art revealed the custom piano's beautiful past.
"We have another piano that has one of the keys signed that says 'Hurrah for good old Abe, hurrah for good old Grant,' and that piano was built during the Civil War," Stinnett said.
One piano was built on another continent more than a decade later.
"We acquired a John Broadwood piano that was built in 1877 in London," he said. "The piano is myrtlewood mahogany and it has a lot of intricately painted scenes, ladies dancing, inlay."
That alone makes the piano special. But then they discovered a royal connection.
"We found documentation stating that the piano had resided in Buckingham Palace in the 1950s and that documentation was from the Lord Chamberlain's office," Stinnett said. "There's a handwritten note on the documentation we have that says the piano was in the queen's private quarters, in the same quarters where Prince Andrew was born."
The piano changed owners and locations.
"After the 1950s the piano found its way to Hawaii and became part of the Magoon family estate. The Magoon family is part of the lineage of Hawaiian royalty going back. So the piano was in another royal household in Hawaii," Stinnett said.
An edition of Architectural Digest from the 1970s shows it in the Magoon house.
It still has the original ivory keys and is in great condition. It's a full sized concert grand piano so it was meant for a large room with high ceilings. Who will purchase it next?
"It's been in royal hands twice before so I think the third time is the charm," Stinnett siad.
The antique pianos the shop restores to sell aren't restored all the way. They get them it working condition but wait to finish a piano until a client buys it so they can customize it.