The perfect match: Historical piano meets historical house

November 2019 Posted in Community, People

Tasha Huebner playing the piano from the 1890s that she moved into her home, also built in 1890. Melissa Wagoner

By Melissa Wagoner

Historical objects really speak to Tasha Huebner. So, when she came across a listing for a home that dated all the way back to 1890, she just had to check it out.

“This was the only house I looked at in Silverton,” Huebner – who relocated out of Portland six years ago – recalled. “It had all the original woodwork and then I saw the staircase and that was it.”

The house, called the Timothy and Geneva Allen House after the original owners, is known for the large oak tree gracing the front yard, as well as for Huebner’s outspoken model-cow, Harmilda. But upon closer inspection, the true value of the property is in the exceptional preservation of the house itself, which is 129 years old.

“The inspector said that it was the best house of its age that he had ever seen,” Huebner said. “But I feel like I don’t know enough about it.”

What is known focuses mainly on the Allens themselves, both of whom were Silverton natives, born to pioneering families. They raised four sons and two daughters in the home, while growing grain and hops and running a creamery. But the details stop there, leaving Huebner wishing for more.

“I totally picture Geneva as wearing the pants in the family,” Huebner laughed, as she studied two framed black and white photos of the Allen family that still grace the sitting room wall. “I want to know everything about them.”

The photos, which came with the house, are among Huebner’s favorite objects. She often studies the grainy likenesses. But one day something new caught her eye.

“In this old picture there’s a piano in the back,” she said, pointing to the photo.

Not just any piano, but one with a striking likeness to an instrument Huebner had recently acquired, also dating back to 1890.

“On Facebook Marketplace I saw this woman who had five pianos for sale,” Huebner recounted.  “I saw it and I’m like, ‘It’s an 1890 piano!’ So, I explained to her that I play the piano and I have an 1890 house; so, it seems kind of perfect.”

The woman, who was liquidating a collection owned by her sister, was happy to see the heirloom go to a
good home.

“I played my whole life growing up,” Huebner said, noting that her original quest had been more about acquiring an instrument and less a search for antiques. “But when I moved from Chicago, I basically gave away my piano.”

The irony of finding this instrument – 129 years old and so like the one in the photograph – is not lost on Huebner.

“Maybe it belongs here,” she speculated.

But as far as she knows the “new” instrument and the one in the picture are not the same.

“I looked up the maker,” she said, noting that this and the physicality of the piano are all she really knows at this time. “But for an 1890 piano it’s in really good shape.”

In demonstration Huebner sat down and played the Maple Leaf Rag, written in 1899, a song she learned as a tribute to both the piano and the house – and maybe the Allens as well. Because, although Huebner may never really know, she likes to believe that maybe they too played this song on their own piano many years ago.

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