Building Curtis

Pt. 2: A New Beginning

When we last visited 1726 Locust St., it had just been purchased by Mary Louise and Edward Bok to serve as the center of the newly created Curtis Institute of Music. Upon the purchase of the home, the fine trappings of the Drexel family were removed, leaving an ornate but empty shell for the Boks to decorate as they wished.  Altering the structure as necessary and choosing fine but functional furnishings, they created an academic atmosphere underpinned by a feeling of comfort and hominess.  And, though over the intervening  92 years the furnishings may have changed, the overall layout and feeling of welcome still remain today.

The former Drexel foyer, now the Common Room, was filled with sofas and chairs situated around the still functioning fireplace, creating an open space where students could gather and relax, particularly during the cold Philadelphia winters. By 1927 the former Drexel conservatory and gardens, originally linked to the foyer by the dining room, were gone; in their place was Casimir Hall, the formal performance venue of the new institute, formally inaugurated in December that year with a piano recital by Curtis director Josef Hofmann (after whose father it was named). The former dining room, used as  the ‘Assmebly Room’ for performances between 1924-1927, now served as the anteroom connecting the Common Room to Casimir Hall.

To the other side of the Common Room, the former parlor was transformed into the Institute’s library (remaining there until the 1970s) and the drawing room, now partitioned, served as administrative offices.  Director Josef Hoffman had two rooms in the 1726 building, one where he fulfilled his duties as Curtis Director and the other his role as head of the Curtis piano department.  The latter, his practice studio, contained two grand pianos, allowing Hofmann more flexibility in his teaching by enabling him to not only instruct but demonstrate side by side with his students.

As 1726 Locust Street evolved into its new role, so too did the other buildings comprising the early Curtis campus. Next time we will travel east on Locust Street to the Theodore H. Cramp house – now the Rock Resource Center – and trace its transformation from 19th c. private home to 21st century information center.

 

Common Room fireplace, ca. 1924

Common Room fireplace, ca. 1924

Common Room fireplace, ca. 1924
Common Room, ca. 1924

Common Room, ca. 1924

Common Room, ca. 1924
Common Room staircase, ca. 1924

Common Room staircase, ca. 1924

Common Room staircase, ca. 1924
Common Room stairwell, ca. 1924

Common Room stairwell, ca. 1924

Common Room stairwell, ca. 1924
The now closed stairwell ceiling, ca. 1924

The now closed stairwell ceiling, ca. 1924

The now closed stairwell ceiling, ca. 1924
Casimir Hall dedication, Dec. 1927

Casimir Hall dedication, Dec. 1927

Casimir Hall dedication, Dec. 1927
Marble staircase in Casimir Hall anteroom, ca. 1924

Marble staircase in Casimir Hall anteroom, ca. 1924

Marble staircase in Casimir Hall anteroom, ca. 1924
Setup for Casimir Hall inaugural recital, Dec. 1927

Setup for Casimir Hall inaugural recital, Dec. 1927

Setup for Casimir Hall inaugural recital, Dec. 1927
Office interior, ca. 1924

Office interior, ca. 1924

Office interior, ca. 1924
Office of the Director, ca. 1924

Office of the Director, ca. 1924

Office of the Director, ca. 1924
Josef Hofmann's 2nd floor piano studio, ca. 1927

Josef Hofmann's 2nd floor piano studio, ca. 1927

Josef Hofmann's 2nd floor piano studio, ca. 1927

 

 

 

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