Antique Piano Shop Restores 1901 Lester Victorian Upright Piano, Donates to Robert F. Thomas Dollywood Chapel
On August 4, guests witnessed the majestic sounds of a 1901 Lester Victorian filling the Robert F. Thomas Chapel at Dollywood, which was packed to the gills and spilling out the doors with people who came to hear the rich sounds of history.
I was inspired to arrange the restoration donation in part because of my strong memory playing piano in Dollywood Chapel in my 20s. My family owned a piano shop at Dollywood just across from the chapel, and I often attended services there and would sometimes play.
Serendipitously, the same week I happened to be looking at photos from that time in my life spent at Dollywood, I got a call from Joey Buck, Dollywood Chaplain, asking about an inexpensive replacement to the chapel’s old piano. Joey asked if we had an inexpensive piano they could buy for the church, and I knew what I had to do. I got chills and my hair stood on end, and I just knew something was happening that was meant to be. I knew right then it was a special moment for me to give back – all in the name of historic preservation.
I told him I had the perfect antique upright piano, one that would be historically correct for the period and décor of the chapel. I said Antique Piano Shop would restore and donate the piano to the chapel with the understanding it be locked with a climate control system installed inside to help preserve it. The Lester Victorian is a unique piece that can be used for a long time.
The ministry was supportive of my business, and I felt passionate about making the donation. I wanted to give an heirloom piece that was unique and could be used for generations of park guests to enjoy. It’s been 40 years since the chapel had a new piano, and I’m happy to know that it came from our shop.
It took our team more than 600 hours to fully restore the piano to its 1901 glory, but it was worth every minute.
To view a video of me playing “I’ll Fly Away” with the Chapel pianist on the Lester Victorian during the Aug. 4 dedication service, please click here
A heartfelt thanks to WBIR and The Daily Times for providing the following coverage of this special service: