Piano factory designated after new owner purchased

Landmarks unanimously designated the 1886 piano factory. On February 27, 2007, Landmarks voted to designate the Sohmer Piano Factory in Long Island City, Queens as an individual landmark. The architectural firm of Berger and Baylies designed the factory as well as many of the warehouses and lofts in Tribeca historic districts.

Though not as well known as the nearby Steinway Piano Factory in Astoria, Sohmer was a significant manufacturer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the preferred piano of Irving Berlin. Founded by a German immigrant in 1872, Sohmer Piano lasted until 1982, when the Adirondack Chair Company purchased it. At one time, there were 171 piano companies in New York City, but the industry gradually disappeared in the face of competition from the phonograph and radio.

Built at a time when factories served as emblems of a company, Sohmer’s prominent clock tower was visible from the East River and Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The German Romanesque Revival factory also features decorative brickwork and rounded arch elements.

The Adirondack Chair Company opposed landmarking at the March 2005 hearing, arguing that designation would mean increased upkeep costs, and would ultimately force Adirondack from the location. Adirondack added that the building held no special architectural or historical significance. Also opposing designation were Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr. 2 CityLand 43 (April 15, 2005).

In June 2006, TTW Realty purchased the building for $22 million and sent a letter in support of designation. Landmarks voted unanimously to approve.

LPC: Sohmer Piano Factory Company, 31-01 Vernon Boulevard (LP-2172) (Feb. 27, 2007).

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