Save Tin Pan Alley
Tin Pan Alley is the cradle of the music industry in the United States.
Following decades of work and appeals from the Victorian Society New York among other groups and individuals, notably including Victorian Society board member George Calderaro, on December 10, 2019, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated five buildings on West 28th Street as Tin Pan Alley landmarks. Read about the designations and access the designation reports here.
These buildings (#s 47-55 West 28th Street) are an intact part of one block of the area known as Tin Pan Alley, home to the most significant concentration of sheet music publishers in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. On this block — so named to describe the audible racket of piano music that made 28th Street sound “like a tin pan alley” — these firms revolutionized the music-publishing industry’s practices for the creation, promotion and consumption of popular music as we know it today.
Tin Pan Alley was the birthplace of American popular music, to a great extent defined by achievements of songwriters and publishers of color and immigrants who paved the way for what would become ‘the Great American Songbook.’ Together, these five buildings represent one of the most important and diverse American contributions to global culture.
This one block of 28th Street, between Broadway and 6th Avenue, offers a glimpse into what has become a worldwide cultural force – pop music – at its specific place of creation. As an enclave of 19th-century structures, it is also largely intact as architecture.Tin Pan Alley’s influence would be hard to overstate. Here, for the first time, publishers and songwriters learned to promote, devising techniques of “song plugging” that helped them market sheet music to a buying public. Blues, Broadway, jazz, ragtime, Latin rhythms – all coalesced into a musical force that emanated from this single block.As Tin Pan Alley influenced American music, American music, in turn, influenced the world. Pioneering African-American composers such as Richard McPherson (as Cecil Mack, the writer of “Charleston”) worked on Tin Pan Alley. Irving Berlin started here too, as well as Albert Von Tilzer, composer of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Singers as diverse as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Al Jolson and Fred Astaire sang music originating from Tin Pan Alley. Rumor has it that living legend Bob Dylan wrote his first successes while he was living in the Tin Pan Alley.