The Great American Songbook Foundation, created in 2007 by Grammy-nominated musician and historian Michael Feinstein, is one step closer to having a home of its own.
Philanthropist Bren Simon, widow of late real estate mogul Mel Simon, has gifted the entirety of her lavish 107-acre Asherwood estate to the Songbook Foundation, whose mission is to preserve the musical legacy of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Hollywood songwriters.
Valued at over $30 million, the fully-furnished estate includes a 50,000-square-foot mansion, an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, a 6,000-square-foot guesthouse, two swimming pools, and two golf courses.
The Songbook Foundation is currently based out of the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana, where Feinstein serves as artistic director. The Center's Palladium Concert Hall houses the non-profit’s administrative staff and public exhibition space.
Still without a permanent home are the foundation's archives and library of more than 100,000 items, including personal papers and other pieces from influential performers and songwriters such as The Music Man writer Meredith Willson, “Swinging on a Star” lyricist Johnny Burke, “It Had to Be You” lyricist Gus Kahn, and “Unchained Melody co-author Hy Zaret.
The Songbook Foundation, acultural affiliate of the Los Angeles-based Grammy Museum has been fundraising to construct a free-standing Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Museum on the campus of the Center for the Performing Arts for the past decade. Asherwood (also located in Carmel) could potentially serve as the home of the museum and allow the foundation to exhibit its vast collection of memorabilia.
The Songbook Foundation is preparing to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate possibilities for the property and to determine whether Asherwood will prove to be a financially sustainable long-term home for the museum and its operational hub.
If other plans are made for the museum's location, the Asherwood estate will serve as the basis of an endowment to support the Songbook Foundation’s mission.
The long-vacant property has been on the market since 2014. A real-estate deal to redevelop the vast estate into a luxury neighborhood and transform the seven-bedroom mansion into a boutique inn was abandoned last month due to restrictions that prevented the development of large-scale homes on the estate.