Grand piano music to accompany SV Historical Society annual tea

Spring Valley Historical Society director Julie Mlinar sits at the Chickering piano that the society received from a local donor. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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Guests at the Spring Valley Historical Society spring tea Saturday, May 12, in the Washburn-Zittleman House Museum will be able to take in some music from a vintage piano that the society recently acquired.

“I believe it is considered a square grand piano, much different-looking than those we are used to today and very different from the electronic keyboards and computers that are being used to make music…it is an 1858 Chickering Brothers piano,” stated director Julie Mlinar. 

There will be two sittings this year at the annual event — one at 11:30 a.m. and the second at 1 p.m. This year’s tea has a salad theme, with breads on the side, dessert and beverages.  There will be a variety of salads served — including chicken salad, fruit salad and a veggie salad.  There will be a variety of cupcakes for dessert, with a gluten-free option available. 

In between the sittings at 12:30 p.m., Maria Klingsheim will play some special music in the parlor or, if the weather is nice, she will play a mini-concert on a keyboard outside.

“While the piano has some sticky keys and other quirks that come with an instrument that dates back to before the Civil War — meaning that may need some work before it can be played — we’re very excited to have the new donation this year to showcase,” said Mlinar.

The piano was donated by Tony and Lori Buchholtz.  A family member had bought the piano at an auction quite a few years ago and gave it to the Buchholtzes because their daughter plays. 

“We aren’t sure exactly who originally owned it and if it stayed in the family or changed owners before the auction…it makes you wonder about the path this instrument took from being built in Boston to ending up here,” said Mlinar. “The Buchholtzes had it restored in 1996, and it’s been a part of the family since.  But the piano is no longer used and taking up space, so they asked the society to take it.  They had thought of trying to sell it, but Lori’s mom came to me first to see if we would be interested. 

“The board decided it would be a very unique and lovely piece to include if we could make the room.  We’ve had to move some things around the parlor of the house museum and pack it in a little more, but we have made the space.  We will keep it there, as the regulated temperature and moisture are more conducive for a piano.  It’s a beautiful treasure of the mid-1800s, and it’s just so exciting to have such a beautiful working instrument that’s 160 years old that we can share with everyone who comes to visit.  And it’s pretty amazing to have another piece in our collection that’s almost as old as Spring Valley itself and as old as the state of Minnesota.” 

Mlinar related that the tea and tunes are for everyone who’s interested in attending — men and women — to experience a little bit of the past through good food and music. Many of the old dishes and as many things from the museum as possible will be used to help make it feel like the 1800s, but with a few modern conveniences to help “make the day a delight,” said Mlinar.  All ages are invited to come.  In past years, some mothers and daughters or granddaughters have used the tea as a nice Mother’s Day outing.  There is a special price for those who are under the age of 10.

“It’s a great way of exposing young children to a more formal lunch with a little history thrown in,” said Mlinar. “Everyone will enjoy spending time in a relaxed but special meal.”   

Proceeds from the tea benefit SVHS’s projects and museums. Last year, the tea was a fundraiser for re-roofing the house museum, something the society accomplished, thanks to all the support it received from the fundraising and grant money. Now, the society is moving on to the re-roofing of the ag building, something it hopes to be able to complete by next year. 

“The projects are kind of quiet this year as we focus on the roof,” said the director. “We will be needing to touch up paint on three buildings and will hopefully get grant money to help with that so that all fundraising can be focused on the roof.  We are looking for a couple of groups to volunteer to help scrape and paint.  Any 4-H or scout troops are welcome to contact us.” 

Mlinar noted that the society is “always blessed by the generosity of the local community members, the city and members of the society.  It does cost a lot to maintain the buildings and keep the doors open for visitors, so we do appreciate donations for our special projects, memorials, purchases in the gift shop and memberships to the society.  Also, by supporting our events like the teas, ice cream social in June, One Room School Days in July and the December teas, people are helping to do this, and we do appreciate it.” 

Reservations are required due to limited seating space for the Spring Valley Historical Society spring tea. Cost is $10 per person for adults and $7 for 10 and under.  For reservations or more information, call Mlinar at 507-346-7659 or 507-346-7726

“It’s nice to have people visit it (the museum), especially if they haven’t been there in a while, or young people that have never been in the house,” said Mlinar.