Hallet & Davis
Hallet & Davis Piano Co., 18 E. 42nd St. (2005)

With McDonalds flag fluttering above for the 2005 occupant of the ground floor of this building, these signs on the 4th and 5th floors of 18 East 42nd St. identify earlier tenants: the Hallet & Davis Piano Co.

The sign says "Established 1839" (click for detail). Actually, Hallet & Davis traces its origins to 1835 when the firm Brown & Hallet, piano manufacturers, started in Boston. Hallet was Benjamin F. Hallet. Brown retired in 1843, and his place was taken by George H. Davis (c.1812-1879). Some time before 1869, Davis' brother(?) Charles S. Davis (1821-?) joined the firm, which at that time was located on Harrison Ave. at the Corner of East Brookline St. in Boston. An ad from 1882 shows the factory still at this location at that time. The following account is given in Pianos and Their Makers, by Alfred Dolge (1911), "Among the historic Boston firms, the Hallet & Davis Piano Company can trace its origin to the year 1835, when Brown & Hallet started in business. Brown was a graduate of the Chickering factory and obtained several patents for improvements. He retired from the firm in 1843, and his place was taken by George H. Davis, the firm changing to Hallet, Davis & Company, under which title it continued with more or less success. After the death of George H. Davis on December 1, 1879, the business was incorporated. Under the management of E. N. Kimball as president, C. C. Conway, treasurer, and E. E. Conway as secretary, the concern has recovered its old-time prestige and is counted among the most progressive of the present day."

The Hallet & Davis presence in New York began at 297 Broadway in 1852, and they continued to maintain showrooms along Broadway and 5th Ave. until 1913, when they leased space at 18 E. 42nd St. as the building's initial tenants. This ad for Hallett & Davis appeared in The Music Trades, 31 August 1918.

The building is a 6-story marble-front structure erected by the brothers, Isidore S. Korn and Max S. Korn, and designed by the architect, Harry Leslie Walker (1877-1954). The Korns also owned the Rogers, Peet building next door (16 E. 42) erected 1915. The architect, Harry L. Walker, designed 3 other buildings on this block (all in the period 1913-16): the corner building at 2-10 E. 42nd, and 2 other mid-block buildings at 22 E. 42nd and 24 E. 42nd (these latter 2 now demolished). Walker designed several public buildings as well as private residences in Bronxville, Westchester County. He was also one of the architects of the Williamsburg Houses (Brooklyn, 1937), described by White and Willensky (AIA Guide to New York City, 4th ed. 2000) as "the best public housing project ever built in New York."

Hallet & Davis remained at this location until 1926, and continued to have a New York branch until 1941.

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