Barry Bradshaw of Bradshaw Piano Service in Conway has a reputation in Arkansas. He is known as an expert in piano repairing and restoration. This small Arkansas company, housed in Conway, Arkansas, showed the diameter of this knowledge when he was called upon to restore an 1860 J.A. Gray square grand piano.
According to Bradshaw, the piano had been housed in the original plantation home for 80 years, but the next 80 years it had been stored, on its side, in a cotton gin next to the Lake Village Arkansas plantation.
The plantation had been donated to the Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas by the Sam Epstein Angel family in 2001. Dr. Blake Wintory, the ASU Jonesboro curator, began the restoration of the plantation. It is the only one on the Mississippi River, so this restoration was an important one.
“Dr. Wintory requested three bids for the restoration work. The piano was to be restored to its original condition, with period-appropriate materials and finishes”, Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said that there were 3 bids, one from a company in Little Rock, another from a restoration firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Bradshaw Piano Service.
Bradshaw received the nod to restore the piano. He was instructed that “the piano should not only look good, but to restore it in the fashion that the doctors of archeology were to restore the actual plantation.”
The Associated Press quotes Bradshaw that the entire restoration took 900 hours.
Bradshaw, when interviewed, was elated at his selection.
“We used documented photos for colors and original finishes. We refinished the soundboard with period materials from the time. We installed new strings, as they were mission completely,” Bradshaw commented.
“Piano keys, original elephant tusk ivory, were bleached, cleaned and sanded.”
This work even included the purchase of a $1000 square grand piano to obtain the pedal wire and woodwork missing from the original piano.
He further commented that he was glad that the piano was saved and that the university has a piece of Arkansas history.
“When homes are restored, furniture is dubbed “reproduction,” where this piano is not a reproduction but an actual piece from the original home,” he added.
Bradshaw commented that he was very honored to be chosen by Arkansas State University to do this historic restoration. Even though he is a small business, his expertise will shine when the piano is the focal point of a Mississippi River plantation.
Sources: Barry Bradshaw, President of Bradshaw Piano Servie in Conway, Arkansas