January 6, 2020
NoMad’s Tin Pan Alley is proud to house five new landmarks after eight months of debate by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Take a stroll from Broadway to Sixth Avenue on 28th Street to admire the buildings at 47-55 that represent Tin Pan Alley—the birthplace and fountainhead of popular music. From these blocks, love songs, comic and novelty songs, ballads, cakewalk, Ragtime, jazz, and showtunes flowed around the globe at the turn of the twentieth century, making innovations in the music industry that endure today.
The landmarked townhouses, built in NoMad between 1839 and 1859, sheltered the growing publishing houses that promoted persecuted African American and Jewish composers, giving them the space to create beloved American classics such as ”Maple Leaf Rag,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and “God Bless America.” The street saw the rise of Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and other greats, who brought diversity into the mainstream music industry and became immortalized in the Great American Songbook.
Historical feats aside, the structures also have architectural significance, as they feature the bracketed cornices and projecting stone lintels characteristic of the Italianate style that peaked in popularity during the 1850s.
Preservationists have been lobbying to landmark the buildings since 2008 to avoid their potential demolition after being listed for sale for $44 million. The properties were sold to a developer in 2013, but grassroots campaigns and continued legal efforts culminated in a long-awaited win for the neighborhood.
Commissioner members noted that landmarking these buildings serves as a solemn reminder of a difficult time in U.S. and global history, intertwined as it is with violence and discrimination, while still celebrating the cultural richness and accomplishments that emerged from the period. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer was one of several prominent figures who applauded the decision, calling Tin Pan Alley “an indelible part of not only our city’s history, but also national identity” that will be preserved “for generations to come.”