A 100-year-old decommissioned bronze foundry in North Philadelphia will be a new home to Philadelphia Salvage, a Mt. Airy company that retrieves lumber, tile, glass and other materials to sell or repurpose. The salvage company plans to use the former Bureau Brothers space to expand their wood workshop, including refashioning materials from the foundry to enhance the work space.
After a month of getting settled in the new building, carpenter Brian Forest is working on a sign for a new project but says the presence of over 200 “orphan pianos” left by the previous leaser, Robert Haaz, have become an obstacle to the crew.
“They are vestiges of our history, physical remnants of a bygone era,” said Haaz, who was unable to remove the pianos before Philadelphia Salvage moved in and is still hoping to retrieve them.
Haaz, a piano tuner in the city since 1973, said he is ashamed that it has become beyond his control to take care of the pianos. He accumulated the instruments over more than 20 years—some were trade-ins, others were from schools and piano movers. Haaz had more pianos than he realized when it came time to evacuate the foundry.
Philadelphia Salvage owner Chris Stock described his first tour of the piano-filled foundry as “surreal.” He said he plans on hiring someone to evaluate the instruments. Many keyboards are caked with dirt and can no longer produce a note, but Stock hopes to donate working pianos to the community. The crew working at the foundry labeled the pianos with blue masking tape for possible salvageable materials, such as ivory keys and ornamented veneers.
Philadelphia Salvage recently made a deal with STARR Restaurants to furnish an eatery in New York. He said that the company has outgrown their space on Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy. The new space will allow for the company to take on more orders for custom furniture. Stock credits the boom in production to consumers who appreciate “practical reuse with great design.”
Haaz said he has a lot of mixed emotions about leaving the pianos.
“I would like to see those which still have their integrity intact remain musical instruments.” He added that dismantling them for their parts would be “like shooting an elephant for the tusks.”