Piano from 1860s back in tune at plantation

— A Conway piano-repair business recently restored and delivered an 1860s J.A. Gray square grand piano, a historical piece belonging to Arkansas State University, to the Lakeport Plantation.

The Lake Village plantation was built in 1856 and is the only remaining Arkansas plantation home on the Mississippi River.

The Sam Eptstein Angel family donated the property to the university in 2001.

After a five-year restoration, ASU opened the property as a museum and educational center.

The piano had been stored for 60 years, on its side, in the property’s adjacent cotton gin.

Barry Bradshaw of Bradshaw Piano Service in Conway was chosen to restore the historical piece.

Bradshaw said 900 hours were required to restore the piece to its original condition, with period-appropriate materials and finishes.

“We used documented photos for colors and original finishes. We refinishedthe soundboard with period materials from the time. We installed new strings, as they were missing completely,” Bradshaw said.

Another square grand piano was purchased at $1,000 to obtain the pedal wire and woodwork missing from the piece.

Piano keys, original elephant tusk ivory, were bleached, cleaned and sanded.

Bradshaw said the piano was the oldest piece he has ever restored.

“I not only enjoyed it, but I was honored to be chosen by ASU to do the historical restoration. The directions were not just to make the piano look good, but to restore it in the fashion that doctors of archaeology were to restore the actual plantation. The piano will be a focal point and has been restored at a quality level along with the home,” Bradshaw said. “ I’mglad the piano was saved and that the university has a piece of Arkansas history. It will always be one that I keep in my portfolio. This was more than grandma’s piano. It’s something very special.”

Arkansas, Pages 18 on 07/11/2010

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