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Boston's Lost Landmarks: Steinert Hall On Boylston Street

BOSTON (CBS) – Janice Weber is an American pianist and author who has been teaching at the New England Conservatory for 20 years.

She also has the distinction of being among the last musicians to record at Steinert Hall, a subterranean concert venue on the stretch of Boylston Street once known as Piano Row.

Read-Listen: Boston's Lost Landmarks Series

Does this sound completely unfamiliar? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. Pedestrians walking on the sidewalk 35 feet above the hall bear this out.

"A concert hall? Really? I never knew that. Wow," one man confessed, adding he walks by every day.

Another pedestrian guessed there were underground transmission lines below him. A third man was partially correct when he said the MBTA commuter line.


Weber hasn't been inside Steinert Hall for nine or ten years, but remembers it vividly.

"You'd walk in through a wonderful marble staircase. You'd go down into the main building and it's a hall that fits one grand piano and possibly a soloist," she says.

Constructed in 1896, the venue has a distinctive history. Performers included Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Ignacy Paderewski.

Egress concerns forced the hall to close following the 1942 Coconut Grove Nightclub fire in Boston that claimed nearly 500 lives.

Weber says the vacant hall faded with time. She compares it to "Phantom of the Opera."

"The murals, the balconies, it's just spooky now because it's full of file cabinets and abandoned pianos and things," says Weber.


She says the great acoustics made it worth the trek into the hall at off hours. Weber recorded two albums at Steinert Hall.

"We recorded after 11 p.m., because of the subways that got quiet then. It was a great place because, having a tall ceiling, it's like being in a cathedral, so the sound quality of the space is wonderful," said Weber.

M. Steinert & Sons, a music store specializing in Steinway pianos, sits above the hall.

Paul Murphy is company president.  How does he feel about having an empty hall below his store?

"The ghosts come around every once and awhile, I don't know," he laughs.


M. Steinert & Sons has been open for business at 162 Boylston Street since 1896. The store occupies six floors and covers 37,000 square feet  of space.

Though M. Steinert & Sons will be packing up and moving in the not too distant future, Murphy says it will be a temporary move only, while the building's new owner begins extensive renovation work.

There is talk of reopening Steinert Hall as part of the renovation project. Weber welcomes the idea.

"People are always looking for a small concert hall with a capacity under 500 seats, the critical midrange and in Boston, they are few and far between," Murphy said.

Listen to Part 10

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