The above nondescript line of storefronts is all that's left of Tin Pan Alley, the songwriting mecca of the early 20th century which was concentrated on W. 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. They tell me there's a plaque on the block somewhere commemorating its history, but I can't find it. Otherwise, there's no indication of the mind-bending amount of cultural history that was made on this small stretch of street.
Given the number of songs rattling around in our collective memory that were hatched here and the great musical careers that were born on this strip of street, it's neglect by the City is one of monumental proportions. "After the Ball," "Sidewalks of New York," "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," "Hello My Baby," "Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage," "Bill Bailey, Won't You Come Home," "Down By the Old Mill Stream," "Give Me Regards to Broadway," "K-K-K-Katy," "The Darktown Strutter's Ball," "In the Good Old Summertime," "Peg o' My Heart" and hundreds more—all written here. I don't know about you—and I don't know what it says about me—by I know a good chunk of all those songs by heart.
That the ramshackle assortment of buildings have survived at all is some sort of miracle, I guess. It's easy to look at these structures, with their stairs leading up to windowed, second-story storefronts, and imagine Irving Berlin trotting up a flight to try and sell another ditty. The stairway to the right of the blue awning above was once Shapiro, Bernstein & Company, a leading music publisher, and later on the Jerome Remick Music Co., another biggie. Remick's main claim to fame was that teenage George Gershwin worked there as a song plugger—that is, he played songs for potential buyers.
Gershwin met Irving Caesar here. Together they wrote "Swanee," Gershwin's first hit and the man's career was made.
At 49, below, was M. Witmark & Songs, which was responsible for hundreds of hit songs. Later is was Paul Dresser Publishing Co. Across the street was Leo Fiest ("You can't go wrong with a Fiest song.") Ought to be a small City museum on this block somewhere.