Original Location: Zaharako's Confectionery, Columbus, Indiana
Established in 1900 by three brothers from Greece, Zaharako's Confectionery, is still operated by the Zaharako family, and is world famous for its decor and turn-of-the-last century elegance. For mechanical music enthusiasts, the Welte Style 3 Cottage Orchestrion, which was installed in 1907, continues to provide a wonderful visual and musical treat for visitors. But perhaps even more remarkable is that not only is it still used in its original commercial location, but the confectionery, as of this writing in 2001, is still doing business much like it did in 1907, a very rare happenstance afforded any kind of orchestrion that has somehow survived to this day.
Located in downtown Columbus, Indiana, on a cheerful looking tree-lined street, very little about the building itself suggest that something historically significant lies inside, except perhaps for the geometric outline of glowing incandescent light bulbs faintly visible through the front display window, or the small bronze plaque designating the building as a historical landmark. To the north of Zaharako's is a limestone bank, which was built around 1865, and to the south is a small office building recently converted into a shoe repair shop. Originally the building front looked a bit different, according to Lew Zaharako, grandson of one of the founding brothers, who related that during the 1950s someone accidentally drove their automobile through the front of the place. To repair the damage, the original double, swinging quartered-oak doors were replaced with a new glass door, typical of the 1950s, and a large display window replaced the original but much smaller one. The signage was changed, too, dropping the old familiar name of "The Greeks," with the Zaharako name alongside, to a more simpler "Zaharako's."
The interior of Zaharako's still glitters with old fashioned color and elegance. But rather than attempt to duplicate the work already artfully compiled and beautifully illustrated by Marilyn Brackney (on her site for children), to read about the history and enjoy a photographic tour of Zaharako's Confectionery please go to Marilyn Brackney's web site at http://www.kid-at-art.com/htdoc/zaharako.html.
During normal business hours the Welte Style 3 Cottage Orchestrion, which can be seen through the lighted archway forming the entrance to the dining area at the rear in the photograph above, can be viewed and enjoyed, as well as can a wonderful selection of edible treats, too. The address for Zaharako's is as follows:
329 Washington Street
Columbus, Indiana 47201
In March, of 2006, the famous Zaharako's Welte Orchestrion was sold to a California mechanical music collector. The old confectionary store had been closed due to health problems suffered by Lou Zaharako. The fate of the old store remains unknown. However, the historic Welte has been carefully dismantled and moved to Baltimore, Maryland, to the Historical Instrument Restoration facilities owned and operated by Durward Center, who is a leading expert in the history and restoration of Welte mechanical music instruments.
On December 24, 2007, The Republic Newspaper, serving Columbus, Indiana, ran a front page story, by Harry McCawley, about the historic Zaharako's Welte orchestrion coming back to Columbus. The story, reprinted by permission, follows below:
|Pipe organ to return to Zaharako's
By Harry McCawley email@example.com
| Zaharako's historic pipe organ is coming back to Columbus.
The 100-year-old player organ, thought to have been irretrievably lost to the community when it was sold to a California collector in 2006, has been repurchased, according to Tony Moravec, owner of the popular confectionery under restoration.
The Welte pipe organ, manufactured by a German company in 1907 and brought to Columbus by the Zaharako family the following year, will once again be the centerpiece of the downtown ice cream parlor that is scheduled to reopened in 2009.
The instrument, which plays music on punched paper rolls, is being restored, according to Moravec.
Although the confectionery will not officially reopen until sometime in 2009, Moravec intends to restart another Columbus tradition during the Christmas holiday season in 2008.
"We plan to have that organ in place and playing Christmas music that can be heard throughout the downtown during next year’s holiday period," he said.
Moravec acquired the historic business earlier this year after its closure due to the illness and subsequent death of operating partner Lew Zaharako.
The Zaharako family had sold the organ to a California collector in 2006.
Recognizing the attachment Columbus residents had to the historic instrument, Lew Zaharako expressed the family’s sorrow in being forced to sell it.
"I hope people will understand and not be too angry,” he said in March of 2006. “I know we’re taking something away from people but we felt like we had no options."
News that it was coming back to the restored Zaharako’s was greeted with Christmas joy by several longtime residents.
"This is wonderful news," said Mayor Fred Armstrong, a Columbus native who remembers taking his children into the ice cream parlor at Christmas to listen to the organ music. "That organ has been such an important part of so many people’s lives."
Local historian David Sechrest, who manages the Web site historiccolumbusindiana.org, said, "I’m so happy. I used to work at Zaharako's in the mid-60s, and I can still remember how the family practically played it nonstop during the holiday season. When a roll would come to an end, one of the Zaharakos would immediately hurry back to put a new one on."
Moravec began his pursuit of the organ shortly after he acquired the business.
"It was obvious to me that the organ was an integral part of Zaharako's," he said. "We had talked about possibly replacing it with other instruments, but I knew that we had to get that organ back to Columbus."
His negotiations with the California collector took several months, and his initial offers were rejected, but the deal was eventually finalized.
The instrument has been in Baltimore for several months undergoing restoration by an acclaimed expert in the field, Kentucky native Durward Center, who described the instrument as an old friend.
"I’ve known about the Zaharako organ since I was a teenager growing up in Kentucky," he said last week by phone from his Baltimore studio. "In fact I made a special trip to Columbus in 1967 just to see it."
Center said his restoration process will take several more months. He has essentially started from scratch, taking the instrument apart piece by piece.
“There had been some work done on it in the past, but for the most part it amounted to putting patches on top of patches. There’s even some of the original leather still on it.”
When completed, Center intends for the organ to have the sound that endeared it to so many local residents but with a clarity that it had lost in recent years.
Moravec has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into restoring the restaurant, starting with a new roof.
"We’ve also reopened three skylights that were in the original building that had been closed off through the years," he said.
Moravec also acquired other historic items, such as the entire inventory of a New York ice cream parlor that dates to the 19th century.
To accommodate those added items and to provide display space for them and hundreds of items that had been stored by the Zaharako family, Moravec also purchased an adjacent building with plans to expand into the first and second floors.
Moravec’s efforts were applauded by Mayor Armstrong.
"We’re so fortunate in this community to have people like Tony Moravec who just want to do the right thing."
About the organ:
Style: Welte Style 3 Pipe Organ.
Type: A player organ, it plays music recorded on punched paper rolls.
Manufactured: In 1907 by M. Welte and Söhne, Freiburg, Germany.
Acquired: By Zaharako family of Columbus in 1908 and placed in the dining area of the downtown Columbus confectionery.
History: Quickly became a Columbus institution, especially during the Christmas season when its holiday music could be heard throughout the downtown area. It was featured in several national newspaper, magazine, and television reports, including a visit to the confectionery by the "Today" show staff in 1980.
Sold: In 2006, due to the illness of operating partner Lew Zaharako, the organ was sold to a private collector in California.
Returning: In 2007, the organ was repurchased by Columbus businessman Tony Moravec after he purchased the confectionery. The organ is being restored in Baltimore.
Future: Plans call for it to be put back in place at Zaharako's in 2008 in time to provide Christmas music for the downtown during the holiday period. Zaharako's will reopen in 2009.
Tony Moravec is bringing back the pipe organ for Zaharako's.
Courtesy of The Republic Newspaper (Harry McCawley, author), Columbus, Ohio.
Zaharako's Ice Cream Parlor has long been known as a beautiful example of an old fashioned ice cream parlor, but was closed two years ago due to health issues in the Zaharako family, and the Welte 3 Cottage Orchestrion sold to a California mechanical music collector. Tony Moravec, the new owner of the historic confectionary, purchased the ice cream parlor in 2007 and is currently in the process of renovating the building. As part of the renovation he was able to acquire the same Welte that was in Zaharako's for close to 100 years, which is now undergoing a complete restoration. He also has plans for a mechanical music/soda parlor museum next door to the restaurant. Reopening is scheduled for 2009.
Zaharako's has recently established a web site at www.zaharakos.com, which provides historic pictures of the establishment and updates on the renovation process.
Historic information provided by Marilyn Brackney, Durward Center, Terry Hathaway, the Republic Newspaper (Harry McCawley, author) and Zaharako's.
Technical information provided by Durward Center.
Zaharako's photographs by Marilyn and Larry Brackney.