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Former piano case factory in Leominster named to National Register of Historic Places – News – Leominster Champion

Back before it was the Plastics City, Leominster was known for piano manufacturing, at one time producing up to a quarter of all piano cases in the country.

The piano businesses are now long gone, but that manufacturing legacy was remembered Friday when Ivory Keys Apartments, 140 Adams St., celebrated its building being named to the National Register of Historic Places. The celebration was held outside the main entrance to the apartment complex. The vestibule area was open to the outside air during the unveiling of the plaque noting the building’s status as a historic property.

The wood-frame industrial building, built in 1892, housed the Jewett Piano Case Co., which made pianos and piano cases until 1931 when it closed its doors during the Great Depression, according to Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office. Galvin’s office nominated the building for inclusion in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places by the state Historical Commission a year ago; the nomination was approved in November.

The Jewett Piano/Ivory Keys Building joins eight other Leominster properties on the national register, including the Wellington Piano Case Co. building on Green Street, which was built around the same time. Monument Square Historic District, Pine Grove Cemetery, the Frances H. and Jonathan Drake House on Franklin Street, the Cluett Peabody Co. building on First Street, the F.A. Whitney Carriage Complex on Water Street, the Wachusett Shirt Co. building on Water Street and the Whitney & Co. building on Water Street are also on the national register.

Piano manufacturing predated plastic novelty manufacturing in Leominster, although the city was known at the time for comb manufacturing. At the height of piano manufacturing, the Jewett company operated in the city alongside the J.H. Lockey Piano Case Co., the Smith Piano Case Co., the Wellington Piano Case Co., the Arlington Piano Case Co. and the Richardson Piano Case Co., all of which built piano cases for the Boston and New York markets. Jewett also built complete pianos as did Andrew Reckard, who individually built a small number each year.

The piano manufacturing business in Leominster began in 1840 when Wade Jewett moved to the city from Amesbury to make furniture. In 1856 he started a series of piano-making partnerships that led to the Jewett Piano Case Co. Following World War I, Leominster saw a significant decline in the piano business, which was mostly gone by the 1930s.

When the Jewett company closed, the factory became the New England Novelties Co., which manufactured plastic novelties for several decades.

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