By Lucas R. Watson, Features Contributor
Today’s building was created in a bustling commercial district, once heavily populated by German and Polish immigrants new to the country, as well as vibrant churches. At the time, many private ventures were trying to make Buffalo the thirteenth-largest city in the United States. The neighborhood remained primarily German and Polish for most of its history and was one of the largest shopping and business centers in the city of Buffalo during the late nineteenth century. There were numerous churches and parishes established in the area; the remnants can still be seen today in Buffalo’s East side.
The Erion Piano Company, which we see remnants of today, was founded on the sale and repair of pianos as well as selling piano rolls for player pianos and sheet music. Records list the Erion Piano Company as being located at 511 William St., which is assumed to be the location of their showroom. The building we are looking at today, on which the words “Erion Piano Company” are inscribed, was originally painted in white paint and had large bold lettering, much of which has faded, but not to the point that it is unrecognizable.
The building on Emslie Street was constructed in 1883. There is no clear indication of when it was acquired by the Erion Piano Company, but it can be said that, based on its construction, it was a building that had multiple uses. A portion of it was residential, but the majority of it was dedicated to the repair of pianos and was used as a warehouse. It fit the needs of the Erion Piano Company during its time. For reference, across the street from the Erion Piano Company building was the Phoenix Brewing Company, which opened after the repeal of prohibition. Previously, before prohibition, it was known as the Luippold Brewery and then the East Buffalo Brewing Company, according to The Public, a local newspaper.
The Erion Piano Company had two locations that we know of: a store on Broadway and the store on William. Being one of the few available sources that offer information about the Erion Piano Company, a magazine from September of 1923 called “The Talking Machine World” referenced the building, writing, “The $75,000 addition to the Broadway store of the Erion Piano Co. will make this one of the finest and largest stores of its kind in the city. The first floor of the three-story addition will be devoted to the display of talking machines, records and pianos, while the upper floors will be used for storage and repair departments. The main store has an excellent location on William street.”
For a small company, this number is rather impressive. Their Broadway store was located at 1021 Broadway, next to the Broadway Market. It seems that the Erion family was a business-based family who provided all sorts of services to the public, including hardware, pianos and all sorts of products to the area.
Our building today has gone through a number of owners over the last few years. One of the most recent owners of the building hosted yard sales occasionally over the last few years. The building accompanies a vacant lot and is listed on almost all records as industrial.
Preservation Ready Buffalo lists the building as both at risk and high risk. At risk means that there is a chance of its demolition. High risk, on the other hand, means it is “facing a significant but not immediate threat.” However, with a new owner in possession of the building, there is a hope that there will be a revitalization, or at least a continued preservation, of the building.