Wurlitzer Piano

On May 20, 2012 a portion of the old Wurlitzer factory collapsed in DeKalb IL.

Eve of Destruction
The building is to be torn down but as of this date it is still  standing as it appears here on Pleasant St.

There are a number of historical and news accounts related to the history of this building from which I borrowed excerpts below.




Melville Clark Piano Co 1906

The building itself began as the Melville Clark Piano Company and at the time of it’s collapse apparently housed 5 different tenants.

From the Joiner Room Journal …

The Melville Clark Piano Company started construction on the factory building in 1904. When it was completed in April of 1905 it was a three-story, 300 x 500-foot building.

The DeKalb Daily Chronicle ran a subscription contest to determine who should get the first piano to roll off the
assembly line. After the votes were tallied, Mary Fitzgerald was declared the winner of a mahogany Melville Clark

The Wurlitzer Company obtained exclusive sales rights to the pianos in 1914, and in 1919 bought out
Melville Clark. Wurlitzer pianos were made in DeKalb until the company decided to meet overseas competition by moving production to a newer and lowerwage plant in Mississippi.

Building pianos in DeKalb came to an end in December of 1972.  Space in the old factory was later rented to “cottage” industries. ………

My observation is that while some of the original brick and structure still exists, the building has clearly had exterior upgrades and interior remodeling done over the years.  This is evident by the metal wall framing shown in the lead photo.

As I always do when studying old buildings I look for photo opportunities in old windows. I just never get tired of the beauty and texture of old brick and broken glass.  Especially glass blocks.

Wurlitzer Piano Company


Fortunately, as far as I can tell, when the building collapsed no one was around.  But, when I saw this sign hanging among the ruins I couldn’t help but wonder how true that might have been since all three floors fell in.

Wurlitzer Piano Company
For more information click either of these links.
Melville Clark
Joiner Room Journal

Thanks for Looking


Wurlitzer Piano — 9 Comments

  1. I purchased a used Wurlitzer electric piano from a coworker in early 1974 while stationed in Naples, Italy, in the USN. I remember ordering tines for the individual notes on several occasions from the Wurlitzer Company in Dekalb. At that time, I didn’t realize they had moved their production facility out of state; they must have still been distributing parts from the Dekalb facility.

  2. Thanks for the posting. I bought my first Dekalb-made Wurli EP in ’77. I still trot it out for gigs occasionally. I suspect EPs from here were played by Ray Charles, Muscle Shoals, Queen, Supertramp and countless others.

    In my opinion, this building ranks among my Top 3, along with the Hammond Organ factory in Chicago and the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I recently stopped by the Gibson building and got a special tour of Lloyd Loar’s studio where he built Bill Monroe’s mandolin and where Earl Scrugg’s banjo was made.

    There is so much musical mojo in the places. It’s a shame to see them grow old. Let me know where I can join their support group.

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