Chicago’s Music Row and Motor Row

My mother and Grandmother used to play so my parents bought their Kimball piano in 1946. I, too, took lessons as a child and played for many years on the same piano. Today, I still have the piano that I sometimes play though it is clearly out of tune and the ivory keys are chipping. Between Adams and Van Buren, on Wabash in the South Loop, it used to be known as “Music Row”. Nearby, my parents purchased their Kimball on Jackson which is now the DePaul Law School. Kimball’s robust business declined in the 1950’s even though they were a giant when it came to pianos and organs. If tuned, my Kimball consolette is probably worth a fortune.

Also on Music Row, according to Antique Piano Shop, The Steger Piano Company was established in 1879 by John V. Steger.  In 1892, the company was established as The Steger & Sons Piano Manufacturing Company. John Steger left Chicago and founded the nearby town of Steger, Illinois, in order to establish the Steger piano factory there.

Across the street was the Lyon and Healy, established in 1864 as a sheet music shop still headquartered in Chicago. By the end of the 19th century, they manufactured musical instruments. Harps, guitars, mandolins, banjos, and brass and percussion instruments. Founded by George Lyons and Patrick Healy, their harps are probably the most popular played by professional musicians including the Chicago Symphony orchestra; considered the best in craftmanship.

Motor Row was directly west of McCormick Place Convention Center including buildings on Michigan Avenue between 2200 and 2500 south and others at approximately 2200 Indiana Ave and Wabash. The district was established between 1905 and 1936 where hundreds of vehicles were sold and repaired. Old autos such as Hudson and Pierce Arrow were available and showcased in rooms on Motor Row. Over 50 buildings occupied the area and stretched over a mile; the most illustrious automobile neighborhood.

The City of Chicago designated the strip for redevelopment as a new entertainment and dining district in McCormick Place area.  Check out the new Motor Row. The former showrooms of Ford, Buick, Cadillac, Hudson, Locomobile, Marmon, are being redeveloped into theater, restaurant, bar, nightclubs, hotel and retail storefronts. Though not sure how Covid has created problems, Motor Row now offers a wonderful working class brewery, Windy City Playhouse as well as a variety of upscale restaurants and bars; a new way to celebrate the New Year.

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