by PETER BESAS
Some of the ex-muggs and their pals who occasionally glance at this webpage may still have a soft spot for the old Tin Pan Alley music of the turn of the 20th century, an era which was even before my time, though very much that of Abel Green’s.
Though I’ve long since moved away from Manhattan (far further than 45 minutes from Broadway!), I still have a soft spot for the old tunes ranging from the Gay Nineties to the Roaring Twenties. And when in New York I sometimes still take friends and out-of-towns on a stroll down that one block on 28th Street and show them the plaque on the floor and tell them all about “Tin Pan Alley” and how it got its name. I even confess to still o-o’ing that old 1940 film with Alice Fay, Betty Grable, Jack Oakie and John Payne called Tin Pan Alley which I have on tape and which I feel captures that era so well, the era when Sime Silverman started Variety back in 1905.
Anyway, rather than shedding a tear for Auld Lang Syne, I have broken by usual cynical vow of never signing anything and have affixed my John Hancock to a petition which is being promoted by Richard Halpern, whom I have never met, and which was forwarded to me by Doug Galloway in Los Angeles.
Following is the text of what he sent me:
Buildings in the historic district in New York City known as “Tin Pan Alley”, the birthplace of many of the greatest songs in American popular music, are now in danger of being demolished in favor of condos, and other “progressive” buildings in the city. We cannot let this happen, and my brother has suggested I headline a benefit back there in order to raise public awareness and to possibly raise some money in order to save the district from total destruction. I am trying to organize that now, and will keep you all posted of the progress. MEANWHILE, please read the article below, and what YOU can do to help, is to SIGN THE PETITION ON THE WEBSITE OF THE HISTORIC DISTRICTS COUNCIL:
Petition To Save Tin Pan Alley: www.petitiononline.com/TPAlley/petition.html
Please FORWARD this e-mail to anyone and everyone, and feel free to post links and information on Facebook, MySpace, etc. We CAN make a difference and save Tin Pan Alley!
(Mr. Tin Pan Alley)
Group sings praises of Tin Pan Alley
By Verena Dobnik, The Associated Press,
Article Last Updated: 11/08/2008 08:58:06 PM PST
NEW YORK – A group of New Yorkers is fighting to save Tin Pan Alley, the half-dozen row houses where iconic American songs were born.
The four-story, 19th-century buildings on Manhattan’s West 28th Street were home to publishers of some of the catchiest American tunes and lyrics – from “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” to “Give My Regards to Broadway.
The music of Irving Berlin, Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, George M. Cohan and other greats was born on Tin Pan Alley.
The buildings were put up for sale earlier this fall for $44 million, with plans to replace them with a high-rise. The construction plan fell through amid the turmoil in the economy, but the possibility of losing the historic block hastened efforts to push for landmark status for Tin Pan Alley.
“The fear of these buildings being sold for development crystallized their importance, and the need to preserve them,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a nonprofit preservation organization aiming to secure city landmark status for the buildings, which would protect them from being destroyed.
The Landmarks Commission is “researching the history of the buildings and reviewing whether they’d be eligible for landmark designation,” said Lisi de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
No date has been set for a decision, which she said depends on “a combination of historical, cultural and architectural significance.” The block is sacred to Tim Schreier, a great-great-grandson of Jerome H. Remick, whose music publishing company occupied one of the houses and employed a young sheet music peddler named George Gershwin.
“I’m not opposed to development in New York, but we have to balance development with history – and this is definitely American cultural history,” said Schreier.
From the late 1880s to the mid-1950s, the careers of songwriters who are still popular today were launched from the buildings at 45, 47, 49, 51, 53 and 55 West 28th.
Nearby, high-rise condominiums have pushed out old brownstones. The four-story Tin Pan Alley buildings house street-level wholesale stores selling clothing, jewelry and fabrics; eight apartment units fill the upper floors.
A century ago, the windows of music companies broadcast a cacophony of competing piano sounds that earned the area the nickname Tin Pan Alley, to describe what one journalist said sounded like pounding on tin pans.
Leland Bobbe, a 59-year-old photographer, has been renting his apartment at Remick’s old building since 1975.
He says it’s important to salvage the buildings in a neighborhood “that has lost its uniqueness. It’s just another symbol of what New York was and what it will no longer be.”