Buildings in Tin Pan Alley, Birthplace of American Popular Music Publishing, Designated Landmarks

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The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted unanimously to designate five New York City buildings, which once housed a cluster of turn-of-the-century music publishing offices known as Tin Pan Alley, as points benchmark. The vote was based on the buildings’ connection to the birth of American popular music and the music publishing industry in America, as well as their place in African American history.

The protection of monuments places buildings under government regulation in order to preserve their architecture. Supporters of the building landmark designation feared that the buildings would be demolished due to their current poor condition. This decision by the LPC ensures that Tin Pan Alley will remain standing.

The five townhouses, located on West 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, were originally built in the mid-19th century. By the early 1900s they had become the headquarters of several leading offices in the then nascent popular music publishing industry. Songwriters such as Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, Dorothy Fields, Fats Waller, Harold Arlen and Scott Joplin, to name a few, brought their latest pieces to these offices, playing them for publishers on upright pianos. The songs chosen were published and sold as sheet music, a popular source of entertainment in American homes which, at that time, generally did not have radios but often had a piano.

The almost constant din of overlapping songs played from various offices nearby the block is believed to be the origin of the buildings’ nickname, which eventually came to refer to this era of songwriting as well.

The boom in single sheet music publishing came to an end in the late 1930s when the accessibility and popularity of radio replaced that of the family living room piano, but many songs from this era became eternal favorites to this day. widely known. and beloved today including “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, “God Bless America”, “Happy Days Are Here Again” and many more.

Many songwriters and lyricists who started writing and selling songs at Tin Pan Alley also went on to become songwriters of the Golden Age of Broadway, including Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, George Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Frank Loesser and Cole Porter.


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