The Palmer Arts Council is raising funds for a complete restoration of the historic Bailey Piano, a 9-foot Baldwin D grand piano was manufactured in 1949 and arrived in Palmer with Dr. C.C. Bailey. The restoration will be completed by professional piano technicians at Alaska Piano Services in Anchorage.
The full history of the Bailey Piano has been somewhat obfuscated by time, but a few key details are known. The story goes that Dr. Bailey wanted to move his medical practice and his family from Texas to Alaska, but his wife, Julia, was not happy with this decision. She was a concert pianist and her husband was able to convince her to move by promising to buy her a new piano. However, one newspaper article contradicts this story, stating that Dr. Bailey came to Alaska in 1946, practiced in Kodiak before coming to Palmer, and married Julie in Palmer in 1949.
Regardless of the inconsistencies in the story of the Baileys’ arrival in Palmer, one thing we can be certain of is that the piano they brought with them was a first-class instrument. Though no longer made today, the Baldwin D was a concert-level instrument and, when well-kept or professionally restored, these pianos are still prized by pianists today. Adding to its historical value, the Bailey Piano was possibly the first grand piano in Alaska, or at least the first in the Matanuska Valley.
Though the Baileys moved back to the lower 48, either to Florida or Arizona, in the 1960s, they left their name on Bailey Street in downtown Palmer and on the Bailey Piano, which has since resided in various places in town. After the Baileys left, the piano’s next owner was Central School, where it was used by the school and community. When the school closed, the piano was moved to the State Fairgrounds, where it was used and cared for by St. John’s Lutheran Church. After the church moved to a new building, the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) assumed care of the piano and it was used in many productions. The building at the State Fairgrounds was, unfortunately, unheated and eventually the VPAC also moved and the piano was loaned to Palmer Highway Church of God.
In 2006, the Palmer Arts Council raised $3500 from the community to purchase the Bailey piano from the Fair Association. Since then, the piano has been stored safely, but not serviced or used; currently, it resides in the basement of Non-Essentials in downtown Palmer. The piano is playable, but due to the years spent in non-climate-controlled spaces, it needs significant restoration work. It is time to get the Bailey piano restored and moved to a location where the community can enjoy it again!
More information about Palmer Arts Council: The Palmer Arts Council's mission is to nurture, encourage, sponsor, and support the arts in our community. See more of what we do at www.palmerarts.org