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Garden party proceeds to help restore historic Hartwood piano

| Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, 2:48 p.m.
Janelle Garoff, of O'Hara, played selections from the “Downton Abbey” soundtrack on the late Mary Flinn Lawrence’s Steinway grand piano during Downtown Abbey Tea in February at Hartwood Mansion.
Janelle Garoff, of O'Hara, played selections from the “Downton Abbey” soundtrack on the late Mary Flinn Lawrence’s Steinway grand piano during Downtown Abbey Tea in February at Hartwood Mansion.
Deborah Deasy | Trib Total Media

More than a century ago, the late Sen. William Flinn of Pittsburgh's Highland Park neighborhood commissioned a big present for his daughter Mary's 15th birthday.

He gave her a Steinway grand piano.

Flinn, who made his money in the tunnel- and bridge-building Booth and Flinn Co., probably paid about $1,050 for the mahogany piano, according to Steinway & Sons' price list for a Model B grand piano built in 1900.

Today, the Allegheny County Parks Foundation needs an estimated $60,000 to 80,000 to repair and restore the 114-year-old, priceless antique.

“It's one of a kind. There's not another one like it in the whole world,” said Patti Benaglio, Hartwood Mansion office manager.

To raise money for the Hartwood Mansion Restoration Fund, the Allegheny County Parks Foundation is helping produce the Great Gatsby Garden Party, set for 2 to 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at Hartwood Mansion. Tickets are $80 per person, or $150 per couple.

“We are delighted to be a partner in this exciting event,” said Barbara Brewton, development and project manager for the Allegheny County Parks Foundation.

The Boilermaker Jazz Band will perform in a speakeasy-style tent as guests roam Hartwood's gardens; play lawn games; and help themselves to 1920s-style appetizers, plus an open wine and beer bar, featuring glasses of Hartwood Fizz, the event's signature beverage.

“There are going to be roving hors d'oeuvres servers,” Benaglio said.

Roland, Rebecca and Roy Mazzoleni of Remo's Catering in Ross expect to offer stuffed mushrooms, salmon mousse on crostini, deviled eggs and “pastry pigs” — small sausages in pastry — among the period appetizers.

“Back then, they used simple things,” Roy Mazzoleni said.

Tours of the Hartwood Mansion will be available on the hour during the garden party.

“There's going to be a dance floor,” said Toni Hoffman, wedding and event coordinator at the mansion.

Benaglio and Hoffman hope to sell 200 tickets, plus $50 to $1,000 sponsorships, to help restore one of the mansion's most treasured items.

“The piano is our first order of business,” Hoffman said.

Professional musician Janelle Garoff of O'Hara routinely plays the grand piano during events, such as “Downton Abbey”-themed teas, at Hartwood Mansion.

“It's has been through a lot,” said Garoff, citing the piano's placement — for decades — near uninsulated windows in the mansion's Great Hall. “It has been right near those windows for all seasons, which is never good for a piano.”

The piano also took a beating when the Great Hall's plaster ceiling fell on it about 10 years ago.

Repairmen “did make the piano look good and play well again, but it wasn't a true Steinway restoration,” Garoff said. “The soundboard was cracked and still is cracked. ... That's why we need to have it restored properly before it's too far gone.

“Considering all it has been through, it's still a lot of fun to play,” said Garoff, a grandmother who has played Mary Flinn Lawrence's grand piano for 16 years.

The Great Gatsby Garden Party will include a display of vintage cars, weather permitting; a silent auction; and a dance exhibition.

Guests are encouraged to wear period attire, such as the baggy pants worn by men and the straight-line chemise dresses that women wore in the Roaring Twenties.

The party will unfold on the lawns and terrace of Hartwood Mansion at 200 Hartwood Acres in Indiana Township.

Tickets to the Great Gatsby Garden Party are available at the mansion and online through Show Clix at www.showclix.com/event/GreatGatsbyGardenParty .

Deborah Deasy is a staff reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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