Henry Steinway built his first piano in the kitchen of his home in Seesen, Germany, but back then he was known as Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg.
Heinrich, his wife, and their children left Germany for the United States in 1851, around the same time that many political refugees were also leaving Germany. Soon after arriving, Steinweg changed his name and founded Steinway & Sons.
The company’s first workshop was located on Varick Street, but within 10 years it had opened a new concert hall and storefront on East 14th Street near Union Square. Steinway Hall, as it was known, opened in 1866 and seated 2,000 people. It was also the home to the New York Philharmonic, which played there until Carnegie Hall opened in 1891.
By 1925, Steinway & Sons opened a new flagship store on 57th Street and closed the 14th Street building. The new Steinway Hall was designed by Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore, the architects who were later designed Grand Central Terminal. It continues to serve as the company’s flagship location and functions as part store, part concert venue, and part museum.
This Beaux Arts style New York City landmark contains a two-story rotunda, hand painted by German-born Paul Arndt with scenes depicting the influence of music on human relations. The middle of the rotunda houses a 19th century Viennese crystal chandelier while original oil paintings by American artists depicting great composers, such as Mozart and Wagner, adorn the walls. There is also a gallery displaying memorabilia from the company’s history as well as scale models of historic Steinway pianos.
Today, Steinway Hall continues to be the place for world-renowned performers to find the perfect piano for their needs.