The Wonderful World of William Steinway    Anna Karvellas

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"Dear Ms. Karvellas—Welcome to the wonderful world of William Steinway,"
the letter began—

I was a few weeks into my position as Managing Editor of the William Steinway Diary Project, for which I had left my rent-stabilized apartment, something that any New Yorker knows signified the seriousness of my intent. 30-83 29th Street, third floor—that was where it began, when I moved to Astoria in 1997 and immediately met Mrs. Caroline Lee whose stories of the old neighborhood—punctuated by her sister Maisie—first made me think about—squinting as if to better visualize—the Astoria that had been.

"No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey's, or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge," Colson Whitehead wrote in The Colossus of New York. "You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now."

As I walked—literally walked—each block of Astoria, past St. George's old stones, down 12th Street, along Welling Court, towards the Riker place, Astoria vibrated: in the dignity of the wood and stone houses that stood amid newer construction, in the robust wisteria climbing up the Steinway Mansion's worn columns, in the competing whirlpools of still-treacherous Hell Gate as it moved towards the Long Island Sound. Astoria resonated, especially to me, to those listening for the pulse of William Steinway's factory, his carefully graded streets, and his brick housing continuing to shelter lives new to this country. Its beat kept time so completely with my heart that it now feels inevitable that I would soon begin researching Astoria and William Steinway's lasting imprint upon it.

"You realize the irony: You are leaving Astoria to write about it," my friend Christine, who also lived in the building, pointed out as I packed for the move. Sometimes, though, things feel meant to be, as I would later tell Henry Ziegler Steinway, William's grandson and the author of the "World of William Steinway" letter. He, too, had great affection for Astoria, as I quickly learned. The only bittersweet aspect of our online debut has been the absence of Henry—we all dearly wish he had lived to hear how the public has embraced the Diary that he recognized should be shared with the wider world. Henry also has left a lasting imprint, and I for one will be forever grateful for having gotten to know him, even though the time was too brief. It's impossible to fully convey just how thrilling it was to experience Steinway Hall and the Steinway archives with him, to hear his straight-talk on things historic and otherwise, including how one mustered the courage to ride the Parachute Jump at the 1939 World's Fair. His archives were remarkable (in the middle of the parachute story, he turned, leaned to pull open a metal file cabinet, producing the ticket) and included many Steinway-related Astoria materials that I had never seen before. On that trip alone, Dena Adams, Hugh Talman, Cynthia Adams Hoover, and I were able to scan more than 200 images, including rare family photographs, maps, and advertising materials such as the Illustrated Pamphlet on the Founding and Development of Steinway, N. Y. that conflated the development of Steinway with the greater story of Steinway & Sons. On Henry's behalf, I am particularly delighted to share the pamphlet and the highly detailed 1896 "Bailey" map of Steinway with fellow Astoria enthusiasts so that they might enjoy the extraordinary detail made possible by the Smithsonian's dynamic digital image delivery system.

"Diary of William Steinway, begins 1861—must see it," I wrote 13 years ago in a notebook I recently re-read in preparation for curating the related exhibition.