The Music Room Finally Has Music (My “New” 100-Year-Old Piano)

Well, my plan totally backfired.  For a year now, I’ve dreamed of having a painted piano (teal, perhaps) in my music room.  And until yesterday afternoon, that was the plan.  But now, those plans have changed.  Let me explain…

I have a piano in storage somewhere in east Texas.  It’s the piano that my mom learned to play on when she was a little girl, and then I learned to play on it when I was a young girl.  When Matt and I moved into our tiny condo, I didn’t have room for it, so my sister took it.  And then when they moved, it went into storage somewhere in east Texas.  My plan all this time has been to move it back here to Waco and put it in my music room.  The problem?  Moving a piano is no easy task.  And moving it 160-ish miles is even more difficult and expensive.

Other than being sentimental, that piano is not valuable in any way.  It’s a spinet, and if you know anything about pianos, you know that spinets aren’t necessarily sought after, and many (most?) piano aficionados turn their nose up at spinets.  But I still had planned to use it in my music room.  But I also wanted to paint it, and my mom kind of had an issue with that.

So I’ve been keeping an eye out for an old, free upright piano on Craigslist — one that had no sentimental value to me (or anyone in my family), and one that I could paint without ruffling any feathers.  So the other day, my sister texted me and said that a free upright had just been posted.

Thos Goggan & Bros upright piano - 6

I took a look at the listing, and it was just what I had wanted.  It was obviously old.  It was an actual upright piano (not a spinet).  And it was pretty and looked to be in good condition.  I contacted the owner and asked if all of the keys were in working conditions, and he assured me that they were.  It was in the house that he and his wife had purchased, but they didn’t want it, didn’t have room for it, and just needed it gone.  So he (and several other men) hauled it out to his back patio and put some plastic over it.  And now he was giving it away for free because he just needed it gone.  (His wife had told him if he couldn’t find someone to take it, it would be chopped up and thrown away.)  I told him I definitely wanted it and would make arrangements for moving it ASAP.

After thinking through the logistics of moving an 800-pound piano (borrowing a truck with a hitch, renting a trailer, gathering several strong men, borrowing furniture dollies, finding someone who actually knows how to strap an 800-pound piano to a trailer securely enough to make the trip without damaging the piano, etc.), I decided to hire someone to do it for me.  And rather than call general movers, I called a local piano company that sells, tunes, restores, and moves pianos.  They quoted me a price of $185 to move and tune the piano.  Sold!

Of course, the man I spoke with then went on to tell me that most of these old uprights aren’t really worth saving (and spending the money to move). Then he asked me where it was, and I said that it’s currently sitting on someone’s back patio.  At that point, he all but guaranteed that it was probably a piece of junk, and that I shouldn’t get my hopes up.  I wanted to say, “That’s okay.  I’ve been told that all of the keys work, and as long as it’s pretty and I can paint it, I’ll be satisfied,” but I didn’t.  People get weird about painting pianos, and I didn’t want the conversation to drag on.  I just wanted to schedule the move.  He assured me that they come across old, free pianos all the time, and that he could certainly find a piano for me.  But I wanted this one.  Plus, if it wasn’t worth anything, I shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty painting it, right?  That seemed like a bonus to me!

So I scheduled them to move the piano yesterday afternoon.  They arrived and introduced themselves.  Burt sells pianos — old, new, and restored.  Robert is an actual piano technician.  He not only tunes pianos, but he completely rebuilds and restores old pianos.  So these guys know pianos.

We walked around to the back patio, and as soon as the Robert saw the piano, he said, “Oh wow, this is a Goggan!”  I had no idea what that meant, but I could tell he was impressed, and I got excited.  As they both started looking over the piano, they both remarked at how great the condition of the piano was, and how impressed they were with it.  In fact, they said several times that most old uprights they come across aren’t worth saving, but this is a piano that’s definitely worth saving.

I didn’t really understand, though.  Was the piano valuable?  I wanted clarification, so I asked, “Are you telling me that this is a valuable piano?”

Robert responded, “It’s not valuable.  It’s special.  It’s very special.”

Still a bit unclear, I asked, “Okay, so do you mean that it’s not necessarily monetarily valuable, but it’s historically valuable?”

He said, “Yes, exactly.”

And again, for a split second I got really excited, but that split second of excitement was followed by a thought of, “Well, crap.  It’s valuable.  I probably can’t paint the dang thing now!

They went on to tell me that Thomas Goggan was one of the only (or maybe the only) Texas piano manufacturers back in the 1800’s.  He started his company in 1866, and only ever put his name on about 500 pianos.  Today, there are only a handful of these upright pianos left (and Robert happens to own one of them), and mine looks to be about 100 years old.  Thomas Goggan was very particular about the pianos that were sold under his name.  Quality was important to him, and Robert said that these pianos are every bit as good (or can be once once tuned and serviced) as Steinway uprights of the same age.

And then as they were about to load the piano into their trailer, Robert pointed to the side of the piano and said to me, “Look right there.  You’ve got burled walnut under that old finish.”

What?!  Burled walnut?!  I have no idea how he could tell that since the current finish is so thick, old, rough, and cloudy.  But that’s what he said!

I got very excited again.  What’s 100 times better than a painted piano?  A refinished 100-year-old burled walnut piano, of course!

Oh my…I’ve got quite a job ahead of me.  Because right now, the current finish isn’t very pretty at all.  It’s so rough that it feels like sandpaper, and it’s so dark and cloudy that it’s almost impossible to tell that there’s actual wood under all of those layers of lacquer.

Thos Goggan & Bros upright piano - 1

But it has such potential.  Just look at the detail on it!

Thos Goggan & Bros upright piano - 2

Oh, how I love pianos!  To me, they are the most beautiful of instruments — both in sound and in appearance.

Thos Goggan & Bros upright piano - 3

And for the low price of the movers, I now have my hands on a valuable piece of history.  And a piece of Texas history, at that!

Thos Goggan & Bros upright piano - 4

And I’m not the only one who loves it.  🙂

Thos Goggan & Bros upright piano - 5

I’m excited about refinishing this piano and bringing the finish back to it’s original glory.  Robert showed me a picture of a similar piano that he recently refinished, and it was so incredibly beautiful!  He said that mine could be at least that beautiful, if not more so, so I really have high hopes.

But I’m even more excited about filling my music room with actual music now.  I haven’t played a piano in about eight years, so I’m sure I’ll be rusty.  But hopefully it’ll all come back to me once I sit down and start plucking away at the keys.  I’m excited to have a piano in my life and in my home again.  And I would have been happy with any piano that had all working keys, so the fact that I got my hands on such a high quality, beautiful piano with such a wonderful history is just the icing on the cake for me.



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  1. As a piano technician in training, I groaned to myself as I read the headline, i’m so happy you got a good piano! I’m also really excited to see this being refinished as I want to refinish a piano as well. Post lots of pictures please!!

  2. This is just lovely! I am on the hunt for a piano. Maybe I need to find a tuner. I would love a piece of Texas history like this.

  3. Coolest story ever!! I’m so happy for you and can’t wait to see the restoration. You’ll have to put up a video of you playing once it’s all done and you’ve brushed up on playing.

  4. That’s so awesome! Obviously meant to be yours. 🙂
    Looking forward to seeing it restored in all its glory!
    Hope you’ll have many happy days of music and joy in your beautiful music room to be! 🙂

  5. This is soooo gorgeous!!! I had a great upright Piano that had a mirror on it when I was younger. Also it wouldn’t let me post yesterday, I think it’d be great for you to paint the design on your entry walls. The Black & White I think would be too much and may be something you won’t like over time. I think the white/white stripes may be too understated. Maybe putting a pearl finish or something on one of the stripes would help though. But i love the idea of you painting your own design, definitely one with birds and flowers. Sounds adorable!

  6. What a find…you just want to hop, skip and jump for joy! Awesome Kristi! And you know what you would not have known all of this about Thomas G. had you not hired a piano mover! Think of that! That is what we call a “God-incident”…yep it truly was and now you can protect that piece of TX history.

    1. We call it a “God Wink”…and Kristi, how I love walking through my home knowing the history of the things I collect. I think you will walk by it and smile over the years..So when you don’t have time to play, you can hear the music in your soul…Awesome…

  7. One of my favorite things to do is refinish quality wood furniture. I can’t wait to see this piano refinished. It’s going to look amazing. So excited for you!

  8. How exciting! This is why I’m so obsessed with craigslist. Lots of junk of course, but you can also find some wonderful treasures if you have patience and perseverance. And it’s such a win/win situation. The home owners got someone to haul away what was junk to them. And you scored a wonderful treasure for you music room.

  9. Your amazing find makes my heart do a happy dance! What a blessing, not just for you, but for that wonderful piano. It was meant to be played, enjoyed, admired, and cherished. And in your home it will be. So happy for you.

  10. What a great story! You’ll have to tell the history of Thomas Goggan to your guests. Such a wonderful find!

  11. God is always smiling on you, Kristi. This is your incredible good fortune for all your hard work! Rock On, Girl!

  12. I share your love of old pianos. They’re like art. I received a 100-year old piano as a “gift” (please get this thing out of our youth room) from my church once. No one thought it would hold a tune. I found a piano tuner who was almost 100 years old as well, and he tuned that baby and it sounded awesome! It was plinky and honky-tonk and I had years of joy from it. Congratulations on your find. Can’t wait to see it brought back to life.

  13. That’s great! I notice free pianos on craigslist all the time, but alas. no one in the family plays. Enjoy!

  14. It will be so relaxing to sit at that piano and play. You may even decide to pick up with lessons again. I am beyond rusty, but I can still get lost for hours just “playing” through the hymnbook.

    1. That is so weird. I’m Ellen as well and I could have posted that comment word for word. (I just posted a comment a couple below this one about the old piano I just bought…)

  15. Perhaps a classic handpainted/scrawled sign on the wall by the piano–Free To A Good Home–would make a great lead-in to the story.

  16. Oh man, you are so lucky! Up until about a month ago I was scouring waco craigslist for a <$300 upright piano! I got a fabulous deal on a $250 Wurlitzer, but that one looks so cool. Glad it's going to a good home who will take such good restorative care of it!

  17. What a beautiful piece! The carving looks amazing and I’m glad you were able to salvage it. I’m sure you’ll restore it to its natural beauty and you’ll make beautiful music together!!

  18. Oh! It is beautiful! What a great story to be able to tell through the years. One piece of beautiful wood can be a statement in itself. So you can now paint other pieces in the room in you bright,happy colors. The beautiful piano will live happily in its new home.

  19. Kristi,
    I think it’s great to refinish the piano and let the wood shine through, especially since you will already have a painted buffet piece in the entryway…it will add a little variety to the area.
    A thought I had…
    What about using the bird and tree wallpaper behind the piano? And then do the tone on tone striped wall for your entryway. I think the tree and birds wallpaper is so fitting for the music room; artsy and inspirational. For your pop of teal you could paint old frames and hang on the wall in the music room.

  20. That’s an amazing story and what an incredible bonus for you with it being such an historic piece. So pleased that you got it and love it and will play it and now it won’t end up being chopped up into pieces. As the saying goes, one mans trash is another’s treasure, and you sure got the treasure with this piano!!!!

  21. What a fantastic story! After all the remodeling and redecorating turmoil you have gone through lately, you were due for a break. And this break is a doozy!

  22. First off, free is awesome!
    Second, awesome free stuff is even better!
    Third, Awesome Free Stuff with HISTOR…I have no words!!!
    Go Kristy! Keen eyes on your sister! Super SCORE!!!

    And seriously, a good photo of that cat on that piano once refinished…How fabulous would that be for a wall somewhere!?!?!??!

  23. What a blessing to find such a beautiful, historically significant piano for free! I’ll bet some Howard’s Restor-a-Finish would easily restore that finish to its original beauty. I have used it on many things and it is really an amazing product. Have you ever used it or heard about it? Home Depot carries it (over near the minwax and things like that). They do have a walnut color (though you can also mix and match colors). Then top it and protect with their very easy to use, and wonderfully fragrant orange blossom oil wax (semi-liquid –not like a difficult hard wax.)
    I first heard about Restor-a-Finish from antique dealers who used it and sold it. Back in my old architecture days, I even specified it once to restore old birch cabinets in a once-vacant school that was reopening in California. The cabinets were dirty and moldy but the Restor a finish took care of the dirt and mold and revived the finish in one easy step!! (I know this must sound like a commercial for them, but I have no connection or affiliation with them. I just love the product.) They do have a good tech. dept, so if you call they can give you good advice.
    Hope this helps.

  24. Btw- the website for Howard’s Restor-a-Finish is Howardproducts dot com if you are interested.

  25. HOW WONDERFUL!!!! Im just delighted for u….that piano was meant to be yours….it was supposed to go to someone who would love it…can’t wait to see the final finish..but to me its beautiful already!!!!!

  26. Wow, how beautiful! It’s serendipity that someone with a love of old things and restoration got this wonderful piano. I can’t wait to see how it fits into your room. I love it when I see your posts in my Facebook feed…something bright amid all the other tiring things of the day!

  27. This was destiny. 🙂 I love the lines of it – it will be quite beautiful when you’ve revealed its beauty to the world.

  28. After all those years of sitting inside a house and horrors! Even outside?! It will be needing some tender loving piano tuning. At least now you have the man that will do the job well- Robert,your piano moving, fellow Goggan owner!

  29. My mother in law had a player piano dated 1906. It was burled walnut also very modern with rounded lines and round columns to support the keyboard. My sister in law inherited it and they refinished it and found an older gentleman who knew how to restore all the insides of this antique piano and it is drop dead gorgeous. It play piano rolls and has ivory keys and is just perfect! Happy for you for sure.

  30. I love that piano and am smitten in what good condition it is. I got the giggles, though, by the idea of you not getting your old piano out of storage as your mom doesn’t like the idea of it being painted, and now you end up with yet another one that you cannot really paint either… It seems like fate wants you to have something made of unpainted wood in those rooms 🙂 (and believe me, I would normally not hesitate to paint a piano either but can understand these special circumstances!)
    I like the idea of it sitting in front of the bird and flower wallpaper, that would match the beauty and perhaps even the period quite well. And I can totally relate to your feeling of joy in having a piano again and just to drift to it and start playing. That will be so relaxing and wonderful for you!

  31. Love the story. It was meant to be your piano. I learned to play on an old upright like that. My grandfather bought it as a wedding gift for my grandmother in 1904. Eventually, it was supposed to go to my aunt in Ft Worth, but she never had a place for it. In 1966 she gave it to me. When I was a teenager, I decided I would rather have a stereo system than a piano. (Isn’t that just like a teenager?) So, I gave it to another cousin who still cherishes it. Long story but seeing your piano brought all those memories back. By th way, my cousin was a wonderful pianist & me…not so much! I look forward to seeing it refinished.

  32. What a find!
    I have had really fine refishing results with Formby’s Refinisher. It just dissolves the old finish so quickly. You could have that refinished beautifully and skip sanding. The Formby’s doesn’t raise the grain.

  33. I am a firm believer that there are no coincidences, I believe Thomas Goggan wanted you to have this piano and for you to make it beautiful again. I am so happy you have it and I wish you years of happiness filling your home with music!!

  34. What an incredible find! Sorry you won’t get that painted teal piano you wanted, but heck, burled walnut will be so gorgeous once you remove the years of gunk. I think it is so serendipitous you scored a legit piece of Texas history. It was apparently meant to be. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  35. Kristi, be sure to write out your story and the history of the piano and secret it inside the piano so that the provenance will always stay with the piano. Too often these stories are lost in time through the years and the personal stories are what add so much to those who collect. Sometime in the distant future (maybe another 100 years) it will mean a lot to another piano lover.
    Its beautiful with all that gorgeous detail in what appears to be excellent condition. Being a lover of burled wood, I can’t wait to see what is under all that dark buildup.

  36. oh my…….I am seriously jealous here!!!!!! I am a church music director/musician, so I guess I am allowed……..
    Some day, I would love to hear you play your piano.
    Congratulations, and I agree that it is a God thing…He wanted you to have it so that it would be beautiful again!

  37. Lovely piano! I’m glad you will be restoring it. I have an old piano also, and it is terrific. There is nothing like a good quality piano to make beautiful music. Some pianos, no matter how they are played, just don’t sound very good. I think you will be much happier with a good-sounding instrument instead of a painted piano of lower quality.

  38. Oh, what an incredible find! I can’t wait to see how the piano will look once you’re done working your magic on it.

    It’s been about 9 years since I’ve had a piano (moved away from home), and it’ll be at least 3 more years before I live in a place big enough for a piano again. I miss having it there to sit down and get lost in clunking around on the keys and making music. Enjoy!

  39. This is soooo beautiful!!! Congratulations!!! Is refinishing a piano exactly the same as with furniture?

  40. Oh it will come back to you (just like riding a bike) and it will be so BEAUTIFUL when you are finished restoring it…..I AM SO JEALOUS!!!! But good for you, how wonderful!!!

  41. I LOVED reading this story…what a find!!! So wonderful when things work out, yours will be the perfect home for this beautiful piece. ❤️ HELLO Kitty!!!

  42. Great story, but I have to ask……What are you going to do with your other piano that’s in storage? I mean it can’t stay on storage forever, right!

  43. Congrats on finding a beautiful and meaningful piano for your music room! It’s lovely. Learning the history of an object brings it to life and adds so much value. I’m excited for you!

  44. I’m totally confused. Wasn’t there a piano in your house at one time? Did that one belong to the former home owners?

    1. Yes, it belonged to the former owners. At one time, they offered to sell it to me, but they didn’t realize that their daughter really wanted the piano. The piano (and the house) had belonged to her grandparents, so it had sentimental value to her. They ended up taking it about two days or so after we closed on the house. So in all of the “before” pictures of the entryway, you’ll see that piano.