Player Pianos (think old-school iPod) haunt 10th Avenue
Photographer Jefferson Siegel sent along this interesting post on a ghost sign for "Player Pianos" in Hell's Kitchen. We looked at this stretch of 10th Avenue recently. Here are Jefferson's musings:
On the SW corner of 52nd St. and 10th Ave. is a solid red brick building. Many of the words on the side of the building have faded into history, but the words "Player Pianos" are clearly legible over the sign for Sonny's Grocery.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a player piano was a precursor, though less portable version, of the iPod. A roll of paper would turn inside a mechanism, moving the keys so that a tune could be played without a pianist.
According to the book, "Schlegel's American Families of German Ancestry in the United States," in 1902 one Jacob H. Becker opened a piano manufacturing company on 14th Street and 10th Avenue. The business was so successful that, two years later, he bought the building on 52nd Street., # 767 10th Ave., for Becker Bros.' Pianos. By 1917, as business prospered, they manufactured 3,500 pianos a year.
An interesting side note to the building is the ground-floor business, Sonny's Grocery. According to the Web site of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation, in 1950 the deli shared space with the small office for Eddie Heller's Rainbow Records, a label that signed such early 50's groups as The Clovers and The Five Crowns, which would later become The Drifters.
-- Jefferson Siegel