The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday designated five Nomad buildings linked to the birthplace of American pop music. Tin Pan Alley, a stretch of West 28th Street named to describe the sound of piano music heard from street level, served as an epicenter for musicians, composers, and sheet music publishers between 1893 and 1910. During this nearly two-decade period, some of the most memorable songs of the last century were produced, including “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Tin Pan Alley
The Landmarks Preservation Committee heard mixed testimonies yesterday during a public hearing over the designation of five buildings on West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues known as Tin Pan Alley. The buildings in question—ranging from 47-55 West 28th Street—are notable for the significant concentration of sheet music publishers they housed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As music publishers continued to flock to the block, the nickname “Tin Pan Alley” was coined in 1903 to describe the sound of piano music that could be heard from every corner. Though most everyone in attendance agreed on the historical significance of these buildings, some pointed to the racist tunes that were also written there as a reason to block the landmark designation—with even the buildings’ owner, controversial developer Yair Levy, arguing against it.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Tuesday in favor of calendaring five buildings on West 28th Street in Manhattan’s “Tin Pan Alley,” in the neighborhood now called Nomad. The buildings at 47-55 West 28th Street were an integral part of the area known for having New York City’s most significant concentration of sheet music publishers at the turn of the 20th century, and as the birthplace of iconic American songs like “God Bless America.” It’s also where popular music icons like Irving Berlin and George Gershwin wrote songs. Calendaring is the first formal step in the historic status designation process.