07 October 2008

Tin Pan Alley Threatened

A reader has alerted Lost City to a threat to five of the assortment of buildings along W. 28th Street which were once collectively known as Tin Pan Alley, the early-20th-century wellspring of much of America's musical heritage.

The five buildings at 47-49-51-53-55 West 28th Street has been put up for sale as a group. The Loopnet listing recommends that they be demolished, "yielding over 111,000 sf of Prime Chelsea property." The listing also provides a proposed architectural rendering of what might be built there instead (seen below). The usual thoughtless, anodyne, everyday pile of bricks. The cost to commit this crime: $44,000,000.

The listing has been up since September. One can only hope that, with the current economy, the seller doesn't have a chance in hell of making that price. Lost City has previously decried the fact that these buildings—once home to music publishers that fostered the talents of songwriters Gershwin, Berlin, Donaldson, Carmichael, Warren, Waller, Kahn, Cohan, Mercer, Youmans and dozens more—have been left to rot, with nothing marking their significance to American culture save a small plaque. They don't enjoy landmark status. No pocket museum or tourism bureau marks their presence. It's a positive shanda!

55 W. 28th Street was also, incidentally, the address of famed American socialist Emma Goldman's magazine Mother Earth. If only Goldman were around today. She's organize a hell of a protest against this sale.


Anonymous said...

Thankyou for this news.
Sad to see the possibility of these
what would be historic buildings in
any other city,get torn down for
another generic hi rise,phooey!
Where are the show boz people on this
one ,like Steven Soundhiem,etc.

Wheres our Mayor?
who loves the arts?

Christopher Browne said...

Thank you for this important article.
I hope this news hits show biz people who care about the history of these buildings #45-55 West 28th street.
#45 where Gershwin worked is a different landlord then the above.
There are 3- Sisters who own 47 -55 west 28th street aka JoFra reality,the children of Frank
Dagostino(sic?) who owns these buildings
that you mentioned.He was a florist.

Zero Mostel's the actor's. son Toby
Mostel has written (in the 1980's)
a history of these buildings which
can be found at The Municipal Arts
Society of NY.
The MAS may first tell you " they cannot find the Mostel history of
Tin Pan Alley "but persevere.

A shame that the buildings that
gave us the song'Give my regards
to Broadway" will disappear if no one cares from the Broadway area.

Many artists live there as well and
of course the last semblance of the
Wholesale flower market...boooooo!

David Freeland said...

I devote a chapter to these buildings in my book, Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville, which will be out early next summer by NYU Press. All I can say is that to lose them would be a cultural tragedy. They were the earliest and, in many ways, most important buildings in Tin Pan Alley - the place where the popular music industry in the US was created and nurtured, during the 1890s and the first few years after 1900. Numbers 49 and 51 stand out as especially significant, historically - they were the first buildings in the area to become publishing offices when the Witmark brothers (whose company survives today) moved there in 1893.

Let's hope that something can be done to help save them!

Brooks of Sheffield said...

It seems a fair amount of people seem to agreed that these buildings need to be put on the Landmarks Commission's radar. Perhaps it's time to start doing something about it.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Excellent work bringing this to light, however: Emma Goldman was a Russian Anarchist, not an American Socialist.

Tracy W Messer, APR said...

I'm interested in learning more about efforts to save these historic buildings.

Between 1869-1891, number 51 W 28th Street was the home of William W. Jones, MD (1813-1891). I'm descended from his brother, Edward Mortimer Jones.