FORT WAYNE, IND. (WPTA21)-A crowd gathered under the sun at Fort Wayne’s Packard Park last week, a crowd other than the families that usually inhabit the park, its playground, tennis courts and ball field. The group gathered last week was dedicating a remembrance of the magnificent Packard Piano and Organ Company for which the park is named, and whose immense factory once occupied the land that is now Packard Park.
The Packard story begins in Chicago and the legendary fire that destroyed the city in 1871. A young piano maker named Isaac Packard lost his piano factory in that fire. He moved to Fort Wayne, rebuilt the business and called it the Fort Wayne organ company renamed Packard in 1899. The Packard organ was world renown for its clean, brilliant, sweet tone, so beautiful a sound Queen Victoria reportedly bought one. In 1893 the company began making pianos and the legend grew from there.
On the opposite side of town from Packard Park lifelong pianist Laura Weston is enjoying the Packard piano she’s owned for twenty years.
“The sound is deep and rich especially the lower register,” she says. “It’s a beautiful piece of furniture. It’s almost like it’s its own museum piece.”
Laura began piano lessons at age four on a Packard piano and even as a child loved the delicate, hand carved ornamentation..the filigree, the fluted balustrades and the piano’s undeniable bullet proof construction. Packard pianos were among the most beautiful instruments in the world, spreading the word that tiny Fort Wayne, Indiana possessed some world class manufacturing talent. But the great depression killed the company, the last Packard piano produced in 1930. The factory was torn down within months and all that’s left now are thousands of piano’s and organs loved by their owners around the world. All those instruments, and a humble green space in the middle of a small Midwest city where once, not that long ago, magic was made.