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George and Hannah Taylor residence
at 50 North Arlington Street. PO1.473
Ahlstrom square grandpiano located
in the music room. File 0441
Taylor Residence and Piano Story.
George and Hannah Taylor lived
on the corner of North Arlington and Church Streets in Niles,
Ohio. The home was built in 1871 by George J. Taylor, secretary
of the Home Federal Savings & Loan Association for many years.
The house was built when the street was still known as Mechanic
Street. Mr. Taylor was featured in the 1934 Centennial edition
of the Times as Niles’ oldest active businessman at 85 years
Mr. Taylor first came to Niles in 1870 and embarked
in the hardware business with Mr. R.G. Sykes. He continued
successfully in that business until 1896 when he sold out to Mr.
J. F. Morris. He then entered into the insurance and real
estate business that same year with offices located at Park and
In 1897 the Home Building and Loan Company, now
known as the Home Savings and Loan Company, was organized with
the following Board of Directors: Wade A. Taylor, D.J. Finney,
Joseph Bland, D.A. Strickland, Dr. A.J. Leitch, J.F. Morris, P.J.
Pritchard, J.N. Cowdery and G.J. Taylor.
The loan company then occupied the same room
which had been occupied by Mr. Taylor and continued in this location
for 8 years. They then moved with the G.J. Taylor Agency to the
Reeves Block on State Street. Three years ago they moved to their
present location, "The Butler Building."
The home featured a music room where the piano
was showcased beneath a beautiful leaded and beveled glass window.
The Ahlstrom Square Grand Piano #2322 was purchased for the children
of the Taylor family.
was common in homes built during this time period, elaborate and
decorative wood oak trim can be found in the entrance doorway
with leaded and beveled glass, fancy fret work and massive sliding
doors separating the main rooms.
The staircase has a landing with a window providing
natural light to flood the stairwell and note the craftsman lamp
on the first floor pedestal. File0426
The kitchen cabinets, base and top, are all oak
with window and door casings having capped lintels. File0424.
The downstairs feature solid oak
pocket doors and a fireplace with oak mantel with a ceramic tile
surround and hearth as was custom in this time period. File0419.
View of the fretwork and oak column
spanning the entrance between the foyer and living room. The
oval photo on the wall is Dudley Taylor at age five.
In 1978 the home was sold to Curtis and
Diana Behner and they purchased the piano from the Taylor
heirs so it could remain in the house.
Twenty three years later, they donated the piano
to the Ward-Thomas Museum when they sold the home in 2001.
The square grand piano donated by the Behners
from the Taylor house is located in the library of the Ward-Thomas
Photograph of the Taylor children taken on the
front lawn of their home on Arlington Street with the First Christian
Church in the background. PO3.472
Allie and Etta Taylor.
Dudley Taylor, age 5. PO3,317.5
February 1917, Allie Taylor in
background with George Taylor, at Home Federal Savings Bank
located in the Hartzell Building, built 1889, corner of Main
and State Streets, Niles, Ohio. PO3.320
Inside view of the bank where George and Allie
Taylor worked, Home Federal and Savings, 1914. PO3.320.1
The three Taylor brothers; George,
William and Thomas. PO3.319.1
Gathering of family events for the Taylor family
Bachelor party, September 30, 1911. PO3.318.1
A double portrait of George J. Taylor
and his wife Hannah Harris Taylor. They lived in the
house on Arlington and were prominent Niles citizens. PO3.473.2
The Ahlstrom company was known for building high
quality, durable pianos. They stopped making the square grand
pianos in 1895 dating our piano to the period between 1875 and
A Little Piano History.
by Lynda Ralston
The early keyboard instruments included the spinet,
the harpsichord and the clavichord. In the spinet and harpsichord,
the strings were plucked by quills, while the clavichord strings
were struck by small metal blades called tangents. These early
instruments played very softly; making them useful for small gatherings
in private homes, but not for large concerts. In addition, they
had limited dynamic; this meant the musician could not express
emotion through the intensity of the music. When the musician
wanted to express more emotion, the hammered dulcimer was used.
In this instrument, the strings were directly struck by the musician
using hand held, leather covered wood hammers. The desire for
more dynamic range in a keyboard instrument led to the development
of the piano.
In the early 1700’s, an expert Harpsichord
maker, Bartolomeo Cristofori, combined the keyboard mechanism
of the harpsichord with the hammers of the dulcimer to make the
first piano called the pianoforte. This initial design was improved
and refined throughout the 18th century. Johann Sebastian
Bach complained that the higher notes were too soft to allow
a full dynamic range; this criticism was heeded. In addition,
the forerunner of the modern sustain pedal was developed allowing
the pianist to sustain the notes even after the keys are no longer
pressed. This allowed them to sustain a chord while moving their
hands to a different register for the next section of the composition.
Viennese piano makers later added an additional string to each
note, further improving the volume and dynamic range.This is the
type of piano used by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to compose
his concertos and sonatas. These pianos had a softer, more ethereal
tone than 21st century pianos or English pianos and had less sustaining
power. These pianos did have a square shape as opposed to the
rectangular shape of the example we have at the Ward-Thomas House.
This is because early pianos had only five octaves of total range
where today’s pianos have seven (or more).
In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s
pianos continued to evolve from the square grand piano to the
modern grand piano in response to the desire of the composers
and pianists for a more powerful, sustained sound. Many of the
improvements were made possible by the industrial revolution which
allowed for high-quality piano wire and the casting of iron frames
that could sustain the tension of the strings. The use of a “choir”
of three strings, rather than two for all but the lowest notes,
enhanced the richness and complexity of the treble. By the middle
1800’s, the grand piano design had evolved to a point where
is sounded very similar to the modern pianos of today.
Square grand pianos do sound different than modern
pianos. When musicians such as Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven
were composing, they wrote for the earlier piano fortes with delicate,
beautiful tones. The square grand piano continued to have this
delicate tonal quality. There is some evidence that many 19th
century Americans did not like volume and power of the “modern”
sound, describing it as harsh and overbearing. As a result, the
softer toned square grand piano continued to be the most popular
piano built and sold through most of the 19th century.
Sadly, they are mostly forgotten today. The square
grand pianos are large and heavy (the one at the Niles Historical
Society weighs 880 pounds!); they are most suited for homes with
large rooms. They could not be used in fifth floor apartments
in New York or Chicago. Therefore, by about 1880 to 1890 the smaller
upright piano took over in popularity causing the square grand
piano to become essentially obsolete by 1900.
The Ahlstrom Piano Company was established in
1875; they went out of business in 1926. Mr. C.A. Ahlstrom
was a noted piano expert of the era whose ideas aided in the development
of the Piano Industry. The Ahlstrom “ARTONE” piano
was marked by several improvements still used today by virtually
every piano maker in the world. The Ahlstrom company was known
for building high quality, durable pianos. They stopped making
the square grand pianos in 1895 dating our piano to the period
between 1875 and 1895. Our square grand piano is a beautiful example
of their art; come see it at the Ward-Thomas House.