A large brick structure occupies half a block on 11th Street in the Bella Vista neighborhood, quietly serving as a conveniently located self-storage facility.   While the nondescript building, bound to the northwest corner of 11th & Catharine, does nothing to distinguish the location today, history does attach to it some distinguished if forgotten names in Philadelphia history.  First among them, according to Sweeney Piano, was the Schomacker Piano Manufacturing Company, which was established in 1838, and received high praise for its output at the 1845 World’s Fair, and which expanded into a building on the northwest corner of Catharine in 1855.  The image here below, taken from GM Hopkins’ 1875 Philadelphia Atlas, shows the piano factory in this location.

The Schomacker Piano Factory, 1875

The company’s reputation and reach grew through the late 19th century, precipitated by its patented ‘gold wire’ model. Virginia Memory tells that the company advertised gold-laden cords as a measure against rusting.  This made Schomacker’s pianos both very popular and very expensive.  The advertisement here below, also taken from Virginia Memory, shows both the promotion of the gold wire feature and the 11th Street factory where said feature was produced.

The Schomacker Piano Factory shortly after the International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, 1876

Under the command of three generations, the family business thrived in both commercial performance and reputation before eventually declining in the early 20th century.  But just as the Schomacker family business was waning, the Marano family business was waxing. According to the Philadelphia Macaroni Company, Italian immigrant Antonio Marano observed from his small but successful wholesale grocery store on 7th Street that the onset of World War I in Europe would stimulate local pasta demand.

It was thus that the Philadelphia Macaroni Manufacturing Company was born, occupying the corner left behind by Schomacker.  According to the company’s website, this decision would lead to considerable prosperity for the Marano family.  The site tells that “the company’s first big industrial account came during the mid-1920’s when Campbell Soup contracted Philadelphia Macaroni to manufacture letter-shaped noodles for their alphabet soup line.”

Philadelphia Macaroni employees making letter-shaped noodles, probably in the mid-1920s

According to its company website, Macaroni moved from the corner in the late 70s in favor of new digs out by the airport.  Today, the corner of 11th and Catharine is occupied by Society Hill Self Storage, where one assumes there is sufficient space to store anything from pasta to pianos.

Society Hill Self Storage 2012

–David Tomar