Earlier this month, ReStore customer James Hunt purchased the piano that was reported to have been used in the famous Cotton Club jazz club in Harlem, New York. Sherman Harris, who donated the piano, remembers it being brought down by a designer in 1952 to furnish the home of a well-connected Washington, DC real estate agent who was looking to turn a room in her home into an elegant gathering spot.
James said he came across the piano at ReStore, which he tries to visit to find what he needs before shopping at Home Depot. According to James, he and his wife, Ai-Fen Lin, are not collectors, although he admits to being addicted to the History Channel show, “American Pickers” about two collectors and dealers who travel around to homes and go through houses full of antiques or just old stuff to buy items to resell. James adds, “Like a lot of people now, we tend to romanticize the past and we are always browsing thrift stores, yard sales and antique stores and sometimes we come across furniture and accessories for our home. This piano will be the center piece for our basement renovation. We have been wavering between a few retro themes and this seals it!”
James said he wished there was some authentication of the piano’s journey from the Cotton Club because the connection to the club and its place in history are very important to him. “There is no getting around some of the less savory history of the Cotton Club, but there is also no denying its significance to the Harlem Renaissance and to the music of the time,” he said. The Cotton Club has been linked to segregation as it served only white patrons, although the entertainers and most of the staff were African American.
About the piano, James says, “It is a fantastic piece and it is a great motivation for me to finish up my renovations and get it tuned. Ai-Fen Lin and I couldn’t be happier that we found it, although my first impression of the piano was actually negative. It is not in great shape, but the story behind it is quite interesting. I would like to thank Sherman Harris for his donation and for his willingness to share his story and that of the piano. We spent 45 minutes on the phone last night and it couldn’t have been more enjoyable. Thanks Mr. Harris.”