After fire and partial collapse, chief says unclear if Weaver Piano building is total loss

Staff report

York City firefighters continued to monitor the former Weaver Piano & Organ Co. building early Thursday, March 22, more than 18 hours after initially responding to a three-alarm blaze there.

Broad Street was still closed from East Philadelphia Street to Wallace Street and Walnut Street was still closed from North Pine Street to State Street, according to a Thursday morning post on the York City Department of Fire and Rescue Services' Facebook page. 

The department urged drivers to use caution in the area.

York City Fire Chief David Michaels said the fire at 127 N. Broad St. was contained late Wednesday night, but there were still a few hidden pockets of hot spots his crews were extinguishing Thursday morning.

No cause has been determined yet.

Emergency crews are still on the scene of a blaze at the former Weaver Organ & Piano Co. building on N. Broad Street, Thursday, March 22, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

The back of the building is completely collapsed, but Michaels said it was too early to determine if the old factory was a complete loss. A few other buildings off East Philadelphia Street also sustained fire damage, he added.

According to the York County 911 Center, the blaze was reported shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 21.

More:Developer to convert former York City piano factory to apartments

More:Explosion injures man, destroys house in Penn Township

Though initial dispatches suggested entrapment, Michaels said no one was in the building during the fire.

Wednesday's snowstorm created a few challenges for firefighters, Michaels said, including a delayed initial response time as they had to navigate the covered roads.

Fire crews also had to set up right in front of the city's highway garage, which houses several snow plows, so the department had to coordinate with the Public Works Department to get the plows on the roads, the chief said.

Emergency crews are still on the scene of a blaze at the former Weaver Organ & Piano Co. building on N. Broad Street, Thursday, March 22, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

Apartments in works: Almost a century after the peak of the piano manufacturing industry, the Weaver Piano & Organ Co. building was soon to get a new lease on life.

Real estate developer Matt Steinkamp and Lara Bushey, his wife and business partner, were planning to convert the former factory into a modern apartment building with 42 market-rate units, Steinkamp said last year.

The building was to include one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, with floor space ranging from 750 square feet to 1,200 square feet, he said.

Steinkamp said in May 2017 he and Bushey expected the project to be complete this spring or summer.

Michaels said his department has made contact with the owners as well as with the trade workers who were helping with the renovation.

History: The property opened as organ-production facility around 1880, and it eventually grew to a third of the size of the building that stands there today, according to the developer.

There were multiple renovations and additions to the building between 1880 and the peak of the piano industry in the 1920s, when the Weaver Piano & Organ Co. produced 45 to 50 pianos daily, he said.

After the stock market crashed in 1929, the automobile replaced the piano as society’s preeminent status symbol and “pretty much wiped out the piano industry,” Steinkamp said.

The building became a distribution center for Mailman’s department store in the 1960s and '70s before being used as an auto repair shop and, more recently, for storage, he said.

Check back for updates.