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Packard Organ and Piano Company ca. 1910
By Randy Harter
Fort Wayne Reader
When Isaac T. Packard’s organ factory in Chicago was destroyed in the horrific fire that leveled over three square miles of that city, he relocated the factory to Fort Wayne in October 1871. With the assistance of a group of prominent local investors that included Charles McCulloch, Steven Bond, John Bass and Judge Lindley Ninde, the Fort Wayne Organ Company was incorporated the next month, and in December the was ground broken for the four-story brick plant on Fairfield Avenue. Four months later, in April 1872, the factory was built and the first of what would come to be thousands elaborate ornate reed organs were completed. Sadly, just two years later in September of 1873, Isaac died, yet, in the hands of Steven Bond, and later his son Albert, the company would continue to flourish, later changing the name to the Packard Organ Company in 1889.
After introducing their first piano in 1893, the company’s line of pianos grew to include a number of upright, player, grand and baby grand models. They produced their last organ in 1914; in order to reflect their reconfigured product line, in 1915 they renamed the growing concern The Packard Piano Company. With over 300 workers, the company could produce between 3,000-4,000 pianos per year, and offered models in Cherry, Maple, Mahogany, and Black Walnut. As the company grew, so too did the development of the South Wayne area, and as part of their expansion Packard had offices in Kansas City, MO; London, England; Hamburg, Germany and Melbourne, Australia. Beginning in 1911, they also began producing pianos under the “Bond” brand as a less expensive alternative to the more elaborate “Packard” models.
Packard later expanded into building wood cabinets for the nascent radio and television manufacturing market. The depression hit in 1930, and, like many other piano manufacturers (as well as the companies Packard made the radio cabinets for), Packard went into receivership, thus ending 59 years in business. The Packard name was revived for a time when piano makers Story & Clark purchased rights to the trademark in 1938; while no longer made in Fort Wayne, they manufactured models using the Packard label into the 1950’s.
In June 1933 the Park Board purchased the former Packard factory grounds, and after removing the buildings and adding improvements, opened it as Packard Park in 1937. Today, the 4.5 acre Packard Park features a modern pavilion, tennis courts, playground equipment, and a baseball diamond.
(Image courtesy Todd Baron Collection)
Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian, author, and tour guide for Fort Wayne Food Tours.