Tin Pan Alley

From Irving Berlin to Scott Joplin, Fats Waller to Cole Porter, the composers and lyricists of Tin Pan Alley wrote the songs that defined American popular culture from the late-1880s to the mid-1950s. Beginning as early as 1885, music publishers flocked to this singular block, on West 28th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues in Manhattan, to set up shop.

A number of the structures that housed these creative agencies still remain: the row houses at 45, 47, 49, 51, 53 and 55 West 28th Street. Yet despite their undeniable significance, these five properties sit unprotected and vulnerable to development and real estate pressures.

As of November 2008, Loopnet listed the properties as up for sale – for a whopping $44,000,000.00. The broker’s pitch? “5 contiguous mixed-use [properties] to be demo’ed, yielding over 111,000 sf of Prime Chelsea property.

This is no way to treat American cultural history. The preservation of these five row houses is long overdue and now it’s up to the Landmarks Commission to preserve these important structures for generations to come.

December, 2008 Update --Ever since last month’s AP article about Tin Pan Alley broke the news about the threats to these buildings, we’ve been contacted from people across the country wanting to help save these them. “American popular standards are among the most treasured contributions America has made to the world. Tin Pan Alley is the invaluable physical reminder of that contribution. It is the embodiment of an important part of our musical legacy, and it should be saved, ” writes one person. “By saving Tin Pan Alley you are also saving a crucial piece of racial and ethnic immigrant/migrant culture in the U.S. I am a scholar writing a book on African Americans in Tin Pan Alley. Where can my readers go to imagine what once was? And what will they see when they get there? High-rises? Condos? How depressing to leave no trace of this rich history.” , writes another. And finally; “Salzburg has Mozart, we have Tin Pan Alley. America's music was defined in these buildings. We're a young country and often throw out our history - The heritage of Tin Pan Alley is something that inspires me daily.”

The buildings unfortunately are still potentially under threat; we are unable to confirm whether or not 47-55 West 28th Street are still on the market. HDC is in the process of putting together a verifiable history of the site and has been aided by a wide group of historians, tenants and experts who have been very generous with their knowledge. Did you know that Zero Mostel lived on the block and kept a painting studio there? That an early resident was the family whom “Jones Street” in Greenwich Village was named after (but not “Great Jones Street”)?

Visit http://hdc.org/blog/2008/11/14/a-brief-ish-history-of-tin-pan-alley/ for more information and get involved and help us save Tin Pan Alley by signing this petition to urge for it's preservation!

More Information:

Tin Pan Alley's Sad Tune - City's Musical Heritage Under $eige, New York Post, Oct. 9, 2008

Original Tin Pan Alley Put Up for Sale in New York City, CBS News, Oct. 9. 2008

Also, visit our colleagues at Lost City, who broke the news of the possible sale and started this whole thing rolling.

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