The Great American Songbook Foundation in Carmel, Indiana, has announced a gift of an estate valued at more than $30 million that will support the creation of a museum dedicated to popular American music of the early twentieth century.
The gift of the 107-acre Asherwood estate, the former home of philanthropist Bren Simon and her late husband, Melvin, will provide a potential site for a freestanding Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Museum and an endowment in support of the foundation's mission. The estate includes a fully furnished 50,000-square-foot main house, an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, a 6,000-square-foot guesthouse, several other structures, and two golf courses.
Established in 2007 by performer and preservationist Michael Feinstein and based at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, the foundation holds the Songbook Archives & Library, which comprises more than a hundred thousand items — second only to the Library of Congress as a repository of documents, recordings, and other artifacts related to American popular music. Currently stored at a facility near the center's Palladium concert hall, where the foundation maintains its offices and a public exhibit space, the collection attracts musicians and researchers from around the world.
"This is a historic moment for the Songbook Foundation and for our nation's musical legacy," said Melissa Stapleton Barnes, the foundation's board chair. "Mrs. Simon's generosity represents a great leap forward in establishing a permanent home for the Songbook Archives, expanding the foundation's outreach and education programs, and creating an interactive visitor experience of international caliber."
"During my time at Asherwood, my fondest memories were when we welcomed guests into our home and hosted events to support causes we care deeply about," said Simon, whose late husband was a co-founder of Simon Property Group, the nation's largest shopping mall owner and real estate investment trust, and a co-owner of the Indiana Pacers basketball team. "I am so pleased that Asherwood is now transitioning into a place that will support the Great American Songbook Foundation and be seen and used by the foundation, its guests, and the public at large. I can think of no finer use than for Asherwood to become an asset to the Songbook Foundation and to support the mission of celebrating American music."