cans to experience, for the first time, something close to having Paderewski, Saint-Saens, and other virtuosi play for them in their homes.
Soon after acquiring Welte, Gittins started shutting down the firm’s Poughkeepsie, N.Y. plant—which had produced rolls, reproducing pianos with and without keyboards, Welte “Philharmonic” reproducing or-
gans, orchestrions, and other products—and expanding the Estey Factory building and its complex.106
architect George F. Hogue of 41 Union Square in Manhattan was hired to add two stories to the northern, three-story portion of the factory, and to add an elevator shaft. This alteration, which cost about $25,000, fea- tured broad expanses of industrial sash typical of the “daylight” factories that were then being constructed around the country.107 By 1921, Gittins had also constructed a two-story building (not part of this Designa- tion) facing Southern Boulevard and adjoining Snook’s 1890 addition, as well as a four-story factory for Welte (not part of this Designation) that remains today at 27 Bruckner Boulevard.108 In 1922, the Estey-Welte Cor- poration was created, which served as an umbrella organization for several Gittins holdings, including the Estey Piano Company and the Welte-Mignon Corporation. Estey, at that time, was manufacturing a variety of pianos, including an 88-note player piano, and manual and reproducing uprights and grands; the new four- story factory on Southern Boulevard made Welte-Mignon pianos and grands, actions for reproducing instru- ments, and Welte Philharmonic organs.
In 1925, perhaps sensing the end of the glory days for the piano and player piano, Gittins decided to diversify into the manufacture of pipe organs for churches, concert halls, theaters, and large residences. In the following year, Estey-Welte appeared to be perfectly healthy, but by January of 1927, a crash in its stock price brought the over-extended company to its knees. Estey-Welte was in serious trouble, and by summer of that year, it was reorganized as the Welte Company. Gittins was soon gone; by 1928 his old firm was reorganized again, as the Welte-Mignon Corp. This latest incarnation of the firm fell into receivership in 1929, when its chief assets were split up and its factory emptied; one investor, Donald F. Tripp, bought some of the organ business, and the Estey Piano Company was sold to the Settergren Piano Company of Bluffton, Ind. Tripp’s firm was bankrupt within two years; in 1935, Settergren was renamed the Estey Piano Company.
The Estey Piano name continued on for decades. Estey spinets were being advertised in Chicago in 1948, and the firm’s pianos appeared in Macy’s advertisements in the early-to-mid 1960s.109 The Estey Piano Company was still operating in 1972, when it received a loan from the Commerce Department to assist it in starting production of a plastic piano. At that time, Estey was described as having “an office in Union, N.J., and an old plant in Bluffton, Ind.” 110
After the old Estey Piano Company Factory was vacated in 1929, it passed through the hands of a num- ber of different owners, and was occupied by many different industrial tenants. A sheet-metal works leased space there in 1932, and its occupants in 1937 included the Whitman Supply Company and Unique Balance Company.111 By 1939, the factory had been acquired by the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank.112 In February of 1940, Emigrant sold the five-story Estey Factory building and the adjacent two-story building constructed by Gittins to the S.H. Pomeroy Company, a manufacturer of window sashes that had been located on the same block as Estey Piano since 1923 or before.113 One month later, however, the owner of the building was the
120 Lincoln Avenue Realty Corporation, which was leasing space to Alta Furniture Factories.114
Until at least
1945, 120 Lincoln Avenue Realty remained the owner of the building;115
in 1969, it was occupied by the
Ranger Plastics Corporation,116
and in 1973, it was home to a draperies manufacturer.117
At the end of the
1 9 7 0 s , t h e o l d E s t e y P i a n o C o m p a n y F a c t o r y h o u s e d a m a k e r o f t e x t i l e p r o d u c t s a n d i t s o u t l e t s t o r e , a l o n g w i t manufacturers of wire and “novelty” products.118 h In 1995, when the building was mostly vacant, it was pur-
chased by Truro College, which planned to convert it into student dormitories or a home for a liberal arts and sciences program. Those plans fell through, however, and the college sold the former Estey Factory, now known as the Clock Tower Building, to Carnegie Management, which remodeled its interior to accommodate live-in artists’ studios. It retains this use today. 119
Design of the Estey Piano Company Factory120
The original, pre-1890 portion of the Estey Piano building—recognizable today as the three-bay clock tower, the twelve bays north of the tower on the Lincoln Avenue façade, and the twelve bays east of the tower on the Bruckner Boulevard façade—exhibits many characteristic features of a late-nineteenth-century factory.