White House Tour & the White House Steinway

On Friday March 8th after concluding the annual Steinway & Sons meeting in Washington D.C., Piano Centre was one of 50 authorized Steinway dealers invited to a private tour of the White House. A memorable experience and fantastic to witness the historic White House Steinway & Sons model D Art Case piano, performed on by pianist Russell Wilson of the Marine Band (Pictures Below).

treasures of the white house: steinway grand piano

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At a ceremony on December 10, 1938, this grand piano was presented to President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the White House by Mr. Theodore Steinway, on behalf of the Steinway family. The 300,000th Steinway piano, it was built to replace another Steinway at the White House – #100,000, a gilded and painted grand piano which had been given in 1903 (now on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution).

Seeking to create a unique and distinguished “State Piano”, Eric Gugler – a New York architect, friend of the Roosevelts, and White House consultant in the 1930s – chose a square form with simpler lines than the routine double-curve form. The case was made of fine Honduran mahogany. Although it measures seven inches longer than the standard nine-foot Steinway grand, it has identical musical works.

At Mr. Steinway’s suggestion Dunbar Beck, a muralist, executed the gold leaf decoration representing “five musical forms indigenous of America” – a New England barn dance; a lone cowboy playing his guitar; the Virginia reel; two black field hands, one clapping and one dancing; and an Indian ceremonial dance. Albert Stewart, a sculptor, executed the three gilded mahogany legs carved as American eagles.

Since the musical works had deteriorated somewhat, the piano was returned to the manufacturer in 1979 for a major rebuilding of the instrument within its historic case. Although used in the East Room from its presentation to 1989, since then it has stood principally in the Entrance Hall, where it is often played by members of the Marine Band during social functions.

Office of the Curator, The White House