This marker in Aiken denotes the site of the former Hofmann House, home of world-famous pianist, Josef Casimir Hofmann. Many critics consider Hofmann the greatest pianist of his time. The musician was born in the Podgórze district of Krakow, Poland, in 1876. Interestingly, he was born the same year Steinway made the Centennial piano, a modern piano with a capo d-astro bar and full cast-iron plate, which was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia – the first World’s Fair – that same year. Hofmann developed his art on modern Steinways, becoming a virtuoso known for his interpretations of the works of Chopin.
A child prodigy, Hofmann delivered his first concert at the Warsaw Opera at the age of five. He moved to the United States in 1900 and later became a citizen. From 1927 through 1938 he served as director of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. By the end of his career, Hofmann had performed 151 concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York, among many other notable performances.
In 1904 Hofmann was invited to perform at Joye Cottage in Aiken, the winter home of New York financier William C. Whitney. The home had recently been inherited by Whitney’s son, Harry Payne Whitney, and his wife, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a renowned sculptress and founder of the Whitney Museum in New York. It was at this private performance that Hofmann met Aiken resident Marie Eustis, a divorcee 11 years his senior. They married the following year and lived in a three-story house in Aiken called Fermata where the couple opened a school for girls on the third floor called the Fermata School in 1919.
The marriage ended in divorce in the early 1920s, though Mrs. Hofmann continued to operate the school. In 1921 the school moved to a property on nine acres of land called Tall Pines on Whiskey Road. A fire destroyed the main building of the school (seen in the above historic postcard) in 1941, shortly after the school closed. In 1952 several Aiken families leased the property’s remaining buildings to establish a social club – called the Fermata Club – which continues today. Josef Hofmann died in Los Angeles in 1957. The site of the Hofmanns’ home and the first location of the school was eventually replaced with condominiums, seen above, overlooking the renowned Hitchcock Woods.
Josef Hofmann Marker Info
Address: Laurens Street, Aiken, SC 29801
GPS Coordinates: 33.556588,-81.724833
Josef Hofmann Marker Map
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