Deanna and Chuck Munson had lost hope for the piano.
After the fire, Deanna Munson thought the piano — the only surviving artifact from a fire that destroyed the C.L. Hoover Opera House in 1898 — was gone, lost to the fire that burned their Junction City restaurant to the ground Feb. 24.
But Tuesday morning as the demolition crew moved in to start teardown on the burnt out restaurant, they uncovered something amazing — something no one had expected to find.
It was charred and black in spaces but still intact — the piano had survived its second catastrophic fire in its more than two centuries of existence.
“I’m amazed — really amazed,” Deanna Munson said. “It’s refreshing to see.”
She said she planned to take it home and have it refinished. Though they’re currently without a restaurant, the piano will follow the Munsons wherever they end up.
The laminate that covers the piano is badly damaged, but the wood is in good shape beneath the charred material. Some of the keys still work.
While Deanna Munson said she doubts anyone will be able to restore it to the point where it plays perfectly — its concert days are long over — it will certainly be display-worthy. She said she would have a local piano expert look it over, but did not believe it could be restored to its full glory.
“I don’t think there’s any hope to restore it to the point that it could play again … I’ll have to investigate just how we could get it refinished,” she said. “I doubt if I’ll try to refinish it myself. We’ll get somebody professional to sand it down.”
The piano has been transported to the Munsons’ residence, where it will remain until they can find someone to restore it.
“It’s interesting to see what has survived,” she said.
Among the items that inexplicably survived was a bucket of croutons — untouched without so much as a hint of smoke damage, but Deanna Munson thinks she’ll pass on eating them.
“They were just sitting there on the cupboard — not even inside — with a piece of foil on top of them,” she said. “They’re not even blackened.”
The croutons went in the trash, but crews rescued several more significant items from the building.
Other items, including an ice cream maker and an Environmental Stewardship Award they won in 2017 from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sustained serious damage in the fire but were left intact enough their remains might be used to reproduce the originals.
“It’s recognizable, some of it’s repairable — very little is actually probably repair-and-use-it-as-is, but there’s sure a lot that can be used to reproduce,” Deanna Munson said. “And that’s what’s probably the most important.”
It’s far more than she had hoped for.
“Thank God there’s a little bit of it that’s recognizable,” she said. “I didn’t expect them to find anything. So finding things that might be refinishable or at least used as patterns to build new ones is an absolute, upbeat — I mean, I am really glad that there’s turning out to be a little bit. Because when you look at that pile of debris you think there would be nothing.”
Crews saved the awnings from the outside of the building at 426 Goldenbelt Blvd. The Munsons, who have no intention of leaving the restaurant business after the destruction of their Junction City steakhouse, hope to reuse the awnings when they find a new home for their business. They are currently in negotiations to purchase the Brookville Hotel in Abilene. If that purchase goes through, they’ll move their restaurant there.
“Assuming we end up with the Brookville and we build the ice cream store, we’re going to put it as an entrance to the ice cream part so we’ll have some of the original Munson’s Prime over there,” she said of the awnings. “We will leave up the Brookville name on the side of the building.”