Stolen Violin Once Valued at $1 Million Was Stored in Danbury For Years
International intrigue, big money and deathbed confessions, it sounds like the plot to a movie, but it's a true story and most of it takes place in Danbury, CT.
We have a feature on the Ethan and Lou Show called: "The Place You Live" featuring Mike Allen. Mike is the former I-95 News Director and a skilled communicator.
Every Tuesday morning he joins the Ethan and Lou Show to give us a deeper look into the Greater Danbury Area and parts of Putnam/Dutchess Counties in NY. On Tuesday's show (3/9/21) Mike did a segment we called "Long Ridge." In it, we learned about the history of Long Ridge Road a man named Ed Wicks.
Ed and his family moved to the Hat City in the early 1950's and brought their successful sheet metal fabrication business with them. The Wicks family purchased 80 acres of land and on it they had a 25 room home they called "Wicks Manor" which is still there to this day.
Today, it's owned by the Connecticut Institute for Communities.
Ed Wick was not just any Danbury resident, instead a famous inventor. Ed patented the "Wicks Lifeline Air System." Allen told us, this a method and system for providing life-sustaining air to persons entrapped within a burning building.
Ed Wicks was good with his hands, his wife Ann was a Julliard trained singer and his daughter took piano lessons. These are the simple elements that led to Wicks, being in possession of an instrument that had left the international stage decades before.
Mike Allen told the Ethan and Lou Show, the following:
"They determined that their daughter Joan was going to take up music, so they decided violin lessons. They take her to a really great violinist in West Redding and he would wait there while she does her lessons and he'd drive her home.
One day the teacher came out with a broken cello and handed it to Ed and said here, make yourself useful. You know how to fix things, try and fix this. So he did, he took it home and fixed it up and this started a whole new line, a hobby for him, it turned into like a business."
Word spread about Ed Wicks' talents, he also placed an ad in the yellow pages advertising that he could repair string instruments. This is when Ed Wicks would unknowingly become part of an international who done it case.
"One Day, knock on the door, a guy from Bethel walks in named Julian Altman and he was very nervous. Ed said, at one point he had two different cigarettes going at the same time, with the ash tray because he was very nervous.
And he had this violin that he wanted Ed to look at, and he took it out, Ed immediately recognized this is a beautiful instrument. And, he looked at it and he goes, this is a Stradivarius!"
A Stradavarius is a rare brand of instrument, a violin, viola, cello or any string instrument made by a member of the Italian Stradivari family. The Stradivaris produced these instruments mostly in the late 1690's through the mid-1700's.
Mike Allen continued with the story:
"And, Julian said, no, no, no, it's not a Stradivarius, it's just a really good copy. So now he's very, very suspicious. He keeps it for three days, fixes it up, guy comes back, guy takes it out, he's playing it and he plays it beautifully. So Ed and Ann being lovers of music, like this guy now and they befriend him. And, he and his wife and Ed and Ann, they go out and socialize and what not.
Stop the story for a second, go back to 1936, Carnegie Hall, New York City, violinist giving a concert. A guy named Julian Altman who worked in a shop right next to Carnegie Hall loved music. He got to know the guys who guarded the backdoor of Carnegie Hall. He found out they like cigars, so he'd bring them cigars and he'd get to stand there and listen to the concerts.
So one day, the guys were, while the violinist was playing, the guys were going out to smoke the cigars, he said, I'll watch the door, you go ahead. He ran up into the dressing room, while this guy was playing, stole his Stradivarius, hid it under his clothes and took off. Now this is decades later, the same Julian Altman, brings this Stradivarius to Ed and Ed doesn't know anything about any of this. He fixes the stolen violin.
The violinist he stole it from gets paid by Lloyd's of London $30,000, which in the 1930's was a lot of money. And, now Lloyd's owns the violin, if it's ever found again. Now it's an international intrigue, who done it and all of that but they had kind of written it off as a lost cause.
Back to the regular ,Julian gets in some legal trouble and he's going to go to prison for a year. The day before he is sentenced, he walks over to Ed's house, hands him the violin and a sealed letter and says, you can't tell anybody I gave you this. I'll come back and get it.
He gets sentenced to a year in jail, dies in jail but has a deathbed confession, tells his wife everything. The wife comes over to Ed and says that's my Stradivarius. She gets a quarter of a million dollars because Lloyd's said, if anybody ever finds it, we'll pay you 25% of it's value."
Julian's died in 1985 and his wife Marcelle returned the piece in 1988 when it sold for $1.2 million. That thing had been missing since the 30's and spent a large chunk of that time in a home on Long Ridge Road in Danbury, CT.
That headline of mine was a little deceptive but only because it's got to be worth way more than 1 million dollars today.
You can listen to "The Place You Live" every Tuesday Morning on the Ethan and Lou Show, featuring Mike Allen, only on the Home of Rock and Roll I-95.