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THE PIANO COMPANY
The whole wall is tough to read, but this is perhaps the toughest. In very faint white letters across the top are the words “L.E. Girardey & Co. Pianos.”
In the early 1900’s, Leo Edward Girardey wasn’t just a dealer of pianos but a manufacturer of them, crafting his instruments by hand right here in Paducah. His first factory at Seventh and Washington streets was damaged by fire in January of 1897 after the explosion of a stereopticon lamp. He then moved his business to Seventh and Kentucky, and finally to the location of the ghost sign at Third and Kentucky in August of 1904. In this large factory space, he could craft up to forty pianos at a time.
The Paducah Sun said of his craftsmanship, “The Girardey piano is not made in very large numbers, but the piano is strictly up to date as any made, and has many unique features, original with Mr. Girardey, which, in fact, make it a most superior instrument in every way.”
His wife, Carrie Girardery, was a successful business woman in her own right. For a while, she was Paducah’s most prominent milliner, a maker and seller of women’s hats, and operated her enterprise out of Rudy’s Department Store.
Further noteworthy is Leo Girardey’s father, Major Isadore Girardey, who came to live with his son in Paducah at the end of his life. A confederate general, Major Girardey was credited with once building and operating the largest opera house in the South (located in Augusta, GA), as well as inventing an artificial cork leg and a fuse used in bombs during the Civil War. The Girardey Fuse better insured that bombs didn’t explode prematurely and that they exploded much more reliably when appropriately percussed (i.e. they blew up better when you threw them). Isadore Girardey died in Paducah in 1898.
Leo and Carrie Girardey left Paducah around 1913 and headed west to Santa Barbara, California where he continued to construct pianos