If someone asked where to go in Newton to buy a $90,000 violin, most citizens would be stumped. Yesterday, I found the answer is Carriage House Violins, just around the corner from my house in Upper Falls.
Carriage House Violins quietly moved into the Echo Bridge mill complex at Chestnut and Elliot streets about two years ago. From the street, if you look carefully, you can see a small sign outside a smallish looking storefront. The modest facade is the entrance to a surprisingly large, beautiful, and very interesting facility. At its heart, it is a retail store for quality violins, violas and cellos but there's quite a bit more going on in there as well.
There are a number of workshops with craftsmen repairing instruments and hand crafting their own instruments. There is something startling about seeing a piece of bare wood being carved by hand and realizing that it will soon become one of the beautifully finished instruments that are hanging everywhere.
For the customers, there are showrooms with racks of instruments everywhere and nearby soundproof rooms for taking them for a test ride. The facility also has a lovely 45 seat recital hall where they have regular performances. In off hours, they often rent out the recital hall for private functions. A few days before I was in, the Newton Chamber of Commerce held their holiday party there.
The old mill setting gives the whole facility a warm cozy feel due to the ancient timbers, wide old floorboards, and the view out the windows to Echo Bridge and the river.
Recently, they held what sounded like a wonderful event called "Modern Makers" that was free and open to the public. In October, they assembled dozens of instruments and bows from world renown artisans from around the world. Many of the instrument makers themselves were on hand to talk about the instruments and their craft.
Carriage House Violins is the creation of Christopher Reuning, a world famous instrument maker himself from a family of instrument makers. Reuning and Sons Violins, a family business since the 1970s, moved to Boston in the mid 90s. They opened Carriage House Violins to cater to advanced students to professional musicians while Reuning and Sons continues to focus on rare and antique instruments.
While Carriage House Violins does handle high end violins (up to roughly $100,000) they also carry a wide range of instruments from approximately $1000 and up.
It's amazing to me that this fascinating business has been hiding in plain sight just around the corner from me in Upper Falls. I'm beginning to wonder what other interesting businesses are also hiding nearby.