After walking through the main entrance’s Romanesque Revival arch, one discovers a beautifully landscaped, European-like interior courtyard, a captive refuge from the bustling city.
The history of the site dates back to 1714, when the land was part of the large Great Kills Farm. Owned by Dutch settler Matthys Adolphus Hoppe, the farm stretched along the Hudson River from what is now West 42nd Street to West 52nd Street.
By 1859, the city of New York had acquired and parceled the Great Kills farm into the rectangular city-block grid we have today.
In the early 1860's, Otto Wessell, Adam Nickel and Rudolph Gross, three alumni craftsmen of the giant piano manufacturer Steinway & Sons, set up their own establishment on the corner of West 45th Street and 10th Avenue.
Their new company began manufacturing piano actions, the interior mechanism which translates the stroke of the keys to the hammer. The business flourished well into the 20th Century, and eventually ceased operation during the Great Depression.
The neighborhood surrounding the Piano Factory, Hell’s Kitchen, was long considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York City. In the mid-1800s Hell’s Kitchen was home to Irish and German immigrants, who lived in tenement housing and worked on the Hudson River docks.
The neighborhood was plagued by gang violence and gruesome murders. The 1957 musical West Side Story was inspired by the infamous turf wars between the local Irish and Puerto Rican gangs.
After languishing for several years, the factory buildings were acquired and converted to cooperative apartments by real estate investors Richard Klein and Charles West, who rebuilt the 19th-century buildings as 49 spacious loft apartments.
Opening in 1982, the complex, re-christened The Piano Factory, was the largest market-rate housing development in the neighborhood, and one of the first projects to be developed under the Clinton Preservation District code.
Today the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood has shed its grittier past, and the Piano Factory arguably remains one of the most unique historical residential addresses in one of the most interesting neighborhoods of all of New York City!