Water main break causes damage at historic Curtis Institute building

Philadelphia Water Department crews look things over while repairing a water main on South 18th Street near Locust Street in Philadelphia on Dec. 20, 2017.

A water-main break clogged traffic Wednesday in the Rittenhouse Square area and caused flooding damage at the Curtis Institute of Music’s historic Locust Street building.

Camera icon ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Fans can be seen through the front door of the Barclay Prime restaurant on 18th Street. Philadelphia Water Department crews are reflected in the door.

The break occurred late Wednesday morning on 18th Street between Spruce and Walnut Streets, city officials said. Vehicle traffic was shut down but the sidewalks remained open. Shortly before 6 p.m., city officials said repair work would continue for several hours.

Water flooded the basement and subbasement of the Curtis building at 1726 Locust. There appeared to be extensive damage to those two levels, where the school has organ studios; a workshop for repairing and maintaining pianos; practice rooms; and a recording studio, said Larry Bomback, senior vice president of administration.

“Every room in the basement was impacted by this,” he said, though “at this point we don’t know the full extent of the damage.”

Between 15 and 20 pianos were in the workshop at the time, and a total of three organs were in the affected area.

Wednesday was the last day of school before winter break, and classes don’t resume until Jan. 16. The flooded area once housed the school’s priceless collection of stringed instruments, but they were moved to another location several years ago, a Curtis spokeswoman said.

Staff writer Robert Moran contributed to this article.