Days Past: Original Elks Opera House piano still in Prescott
A few years back, the Elks Opera House Foundation named me the official historian of the Elks Opera House because I had spent more than four years compiling a list of all known bookings in that venue, as well as collecting other data and records.
Since that time, many people have approached me with stories and artifacts regarding the Elks Opera House. One of the most interesting occurred about a year ago when I received an e-mail from local resident Jill Tetreau, who claimed to have the original piano from the early days of the Elks Opera House. There is a piano that appears in the oldest photos of the interior of the Opera House. I thought it would be interesting to see Jill's piano and compare it with the old photos.
I went out to visit Jill, accompanied by friends Alan and Kathy Krause from Sharlot Hall Museum. The Tetreaus live in Williamson Valley in a spacious house once owned by Sam Steiger. They greeted us and proceeded to show us the piano.
It is an upright "Crown" Concert Grand Piano, still in beautiful condition despite its age. It was manufactured by George P. Bent of Chicago. It is equipped with an Orchestral Attachment and Practice Clavier, making it a "silent, neighbor-friendly" piano for practicing. It was a top-notch piano of the day.
Mrs. Tetreau has had the piano since 1985. She had received it from her "adopted grandmother," long-time Prescott resident Emma Andres. Mrs. Andres had acquired the piano in the late 1920s or early 1930s when the Elks Theater was undergoing remodeling and they were discarding many things. The story fits, as it has been documented that the Elks underwent some major remodeling in 1928 and 1933.
An examination of the interior of the piano revealed leather strapping in the back, as well as handwritten dates when the piano had been tuned, dutifully inscribed by the tuner: "Tuned by Paul Morgan" on "Nov 8th 1898," "1/18/1900" and "7/11/1900." This was before the Elks Opera House was built. It is unknown who owned the piano at that time.
Mrs. Tetreau showed us some sheet music that had been inside the piano bench. It included a song called "Back to the West," written by old-time Prescott-area composer Nellie von Gerichten-Smith. In the Days Past article last Sunday, you may recall that Mrs. Smith was one of the entertainers for Sharlot Hall's "Hassayamper's Evening" at the Elks Opera House in 1907. It is likely that she played her music that evening on this very piano that we were examining!
Although there isn't a paper trail proving that this is the original Elks Opera House piano, the story checks out and I have no reason to doubt its authenticity. It has the same decorative wood-carved exterior as seen in the old Elks photos. Standing beside it and touching it, the Elks Opera House historian was awed by the moment. It is wonderful this relic has survived.
Parker Anderson is the official historian of the Elks Opera House and an active member of Sharlot Hall Museum's Blue Rose Theater. He portrays the role of Henry W. Fleury, secretary to the first territorial governor, at SHM's "Living History" events.
This and other Days Past articles are available on Sharlot.org/library&archives/history/dayspast and via RSS e-mail subscription.
The public is encouraged to submit articles for Days Past consideration. Please contact Scott Anderson at the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives at 445-3122 for information.