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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Owning a Piece of History

After a year of procrastinating, J finally started working on our basement.  We had bought the house over a year and half ago, and the basement was unfinished and forlorn.  However with the new year, J found a new resolve and had been working on the basement steadily for several evenings after work. To expedite the work, he needed a sledgehammer to finish taking out the old walls.  So he headed over to one of our favorite thrift stores, ReStore, which is the retail store run by Habitat for Humanity.  Besides that J used to work for Habitat and that we strongly believe in their mission, the ReStore often has "upcycled" fixtures and tools at rock bottom prices, and of course, the proceeds goes toward Habitat.  Win win all around.

Although I normally adore going to the ReStore, on this day, I opted to stay home.  I have very little interest in demolition or home improvement work.  I have tons of ideas of what I would like done to our house…but the actual work…yeah, not so much.  Too much dust and grime and bugs.  Not a fan.  Besides, I had a ton of orders to get out (thank you fabulous customers for giving me an excellent excuse to skip helping J with the basement…heh).

I was merrily whipping out hats and hair flowers, and texting my BFF with ideas for new products, when J texts me a photo of an old piano.  No message.  Just the picture.
Tell me that seeing this on your phone wouldn't excite you too?!

Immediately, I call him, and J proceeds to read off to me the history of this piano.  As he’s reading, I’m running to my car (my shoes shoved into my purse in my mad rush) to get to the store ASAP.  In a nutshell, this piano was used in the Cotton Club in Harlem before it closed down in 1940 (yes, *the* Cotton Club – not the imitators that came after).  It was brought to DC to decorate the “salon” of a DC real estate agent, who then passed down to her nephew when she died.  The nephew in turn bequeathed it to his friend, who recently decided to donate it to a worthy cause…Habitat for Humanity…
As if the amazingness of the piano wasn't enough, it came with a killer story!

Now, J and I love many things.  We love vintage, and we have a deep passion for all things old Vegas and Mid-Century, but the both of us hold a deep and holy reverence to all things Big Band, Swing and Jazz Age (basically anything from 1920 - 1940). So this piano is a marvelous piece of history that coincides with our passions - it's like kismet!  And the fact that it was used in the Cotton Club…!!!  Needless to say, visions of Fats Waller and Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington using that piano had us writhing in excitement (I’m not going to lie, the ReStore staff was surreptitiously laying down newspaper under us in case we made a mess).

While J went to pay the nice ReStore staff, I was on the phone hiring piano movers, professional tuners, and looking up how to restore pianos.   

The much better and well written article about the history of the piano from the ReStore (the retail store for Habitat for Humanity) can be found here.

WOW…just…WOW.  Needless to say, I am head in heels in love with this piano, and I’m just giddy with excitement.  AWESOME way to kick off the new year!


  1. Seriously can't wait for the basement bar to be completed.

  2. that is sooo cool! It's great when we get unexpected blessings! I'm a new follower and found you on the Etsy Blog team.