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L5Larry

Mel Bay Buildings to be Demolished

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Some of you may remember that I live in the same little town outside St. Louis, Missouri that was also home to Mel Bay. After WWII Mel started his publishing business here, and to this day Mel Bay Publishing is still the worlds largest music publisher of instructional books. I don't know of a guitar player alive that doesn't know the name "Mel Bay", and how many of us learned from Mel Bay books (I did). Mel also had a retail store here, and as a kid learning to play guitar in the sixties, all we had to do was walk into his store to get our how-to questions answered. If you asked Mel ANYTHING about guitar playing, he would pick up a guitar and give you a free lesson right there in the middle of his store.

 

One afternoon in the late 70's I had a long and fateful conversation with Mel about playing jazz guitar. That thirty minute conversation (guitars in hand), in the aisle of his store between the acoustic guitar rack and ukeleles, changed the way I thought about guitar playing, and the role of the guitar as an accompaniment instrument. That conversation 35 years ago also became the basis and foundation of my playing style to this day, especially for the jazz big band playing that I do.

 

Among the people Mel called "friends" were the likes of Chet Atkins, Johnny Smith, Les Paul, etc. On the great album "Chester and Lester", Les can be heard telling Chet they ought to get a Mel Bay book to learn how the play the song they were trying to record, and on the record that Tommy Emmanuel did with Chet, there is even a song called "Ode To Mel Bay". There are also local legends of guitarists from major touring bands coming to town looking for Mel.

 

BUT, that's not what this thread is about, it's about CIVIC PROGRESS.

 

Now a little about my town. I live in a railroad town, one of the first planned suburbs west of the Mississippi River, founded in 1853 on the Union Pacific railway. My family has been here since my grandfather gave up the family farm during the Great Depression, and moved to the "city" in the mid 30's. At that time my father was a teenager, and was even allowed to bring his horse with him. As you can imagine, my roots here are fairly deep, and in my 50+ years here I have certainly seen a lot of changes. I always amazed at how the history, and historical significance, of people and places, is taken for granted and/or lost over time.

 

Anyway, to the point (finally).

 

Our town council, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to tear down the two Mel Bay buildings to build a PARKING LOT!

 

Now, our "downtown" is about 4 blocks long and 2 blocks wide, and it seems people can no longer be bothered to have to walk a couple of blocks from a parking space. We loose two revenue producing buildings (property tax, sales tax, employment) that also have some historical significance, spend something like $1.2M in tax dollars, to get a few extra parking spaces.

 

NOW THAT'S PROGRESS.

 

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Hi Larry...

 

Yeah, I've seen that happen all over. Unfortunately too often it's also buildings that have been allowed by absentee owners (often offspring of original owners or others they sold the building to) to allow such structures to slowly rot so that current use is almost impossible without gutting and rebuilding the old exterior.

 

It's pretty sad, and changes the whole character of a lot of small community "downtowns" even as the big cities already have gone through such "updating" or simply left to rot.

 

But then, I'm also a history and preservation type...

 

m

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Start flooding your local Historical Society with letters and petitions. You're probably not the only one that feels as you do, get the word on the street and save your towns history!

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It's a sin that councils don't see beyond the dollar value of some things.We have the same thing in our town where council has given the go-ahead to a developer to build 5 mansions in what has always designated parkland and was named by National Geographic Traveller as the most beautiful coastal area in the world.Despite protests coming from as far away as Tasmania,Viet Nam,Japan etc. they are hell bent on letting this happen.The trouble with politics of any level is that it attracts business people who are more motivated by money than anything else and wouldn't see an old building worth saving-despite its historic significance-unless it was a good source of tax income.

 

Mel Bay's name has been synonymous with guitar learning since I can remember and like many others my first guitar books were by Mel Bay.It would be a sad loss to the music world if these buildings were to suffer the insulting fate of becoming a parking lot.If it had been for a school of music that would have been more fitting but destroying them to put up a parking lot-I'd say call Joni Mitchell for this one.

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I'd contact your Senator and express your desire to keep the building for its historical significance. It could possibly become a state protected historical site.

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There are advantages and disadvantages to being on the National Register for buildings of this sort that should be rapidly researched and considered as part of any effort to "save" the structure as a significant historic site.

 

Each state should have a historic board - names differ - that keeps such records and is charged with maintaining federal and state historic site regulations. In some cases there may be funding available to help maintain a given building, but the exterior usually has to match a "look" from a given time period. Again, regs and interpretations may vary along with whether any given building might qualify.

 

One difficulty, however, can be ownership that is not in favor of such a historical designation; another is funding that may be required to purchase and/or maintain a given structure - which is why the "music school" may be one way of renting time/space to help cover costs.

 

It's always a fine line for communities with historic downtowns, especially smaller towns where the downtown appearance is itself something of a "signature." OTOH, building renovation costs, lack of parking and lack of cash for maintaining a historic "look" all mitigate against what it appears many of us would like to see.

 

For example, my town's entire "downtown" is on the national register - but a number of the buildings are empty largely because of the cost of renovation of multi-story structures that likely have rotten roofs and potentially literally rotten flooring supports on upper stories.

 

In one case I'm familiar with, a once-gorgeous second floor theater in a downtown building had to be demolished because it simply was dangerous beyond practical spending to repair. In fact, repair per se would have been impossible. An area fairgrounds grandstand similarly is on the national register but also is beyond practical repair and would require replacement with money that just doesn't exist.

 

In short... been there, done that. It's also why I put my personal preservation efforts more into the local museum as opposed to structure preservation committees. Now all "we" need here is about a half mil to double the size of our five-six year old museum. Anybody got it to spare?

 

EDIT: Seriously, I strongly support anything you can do, Larry, to help get something going to protect this site.

 

m

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The very first line of 'Big Yellow Taxi'? "They pave Paradise; put up a parking lot".

 

One of the things that tourists - and especially those from the U.S.A. - love most about Great Britain is this sense of history which is present in almost every town and village up and down the length of the country.

 

It is also often pointedly ignored by those who have the power to save this heritage!

 

I agree that you should try to organise some sort of campaign to make the powers that be be re-think their ideas. Walking is BENEFICIAL to people, for goodness sakes!

 

P.

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Mel Bay Enterprises owns the buildings, and are selling them to the city. No offense, but if they don't care, why should I or anyone else? I would think the owners of the building and the name would carry the legacy, not the taxpayers and concerned citizens.

 

rct

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Pippy...

 

One of the strange things I've noticed about Americans is that they'll walk half a mile across the parking lot to a "big box" store, or five miles in a shopping center - but not half a block in a traditional "downtown" business district.

 

Of course... <grin> I'm probably just about as bad. I just pretty much refuse to go to the big places at all, although 25 years ago I'd often find an excuse to go "shopping" at a shopping center just to have the excuse to walk a couple of miles. Now where I live there ain't one in 60 miles.

 

m

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RCT...

 

While I don't think all buildings and artifacts from another era deserve being "saved," I think there's a historic value to retaining some of them because of historic significance. Unfortunately many buildings - or even bits of "bare ground," simply are too far gone. With smaller artifacts one must determine whether the historic value is worth the cost of maintaining in a museum.

 

Money is a major determining factor in whether something is rescued from becoming a parking lot or new structure of some sort. Often also value judgments about something only a century to a half century old tend to unrealistically favor "saving" or "destroying" a structure or artifact without a true historic perspective as to potential value.

 

In a sense, holding onto "things" of our past can help us better see where we're going. My grandparents' first television - one that even had a motorized channel changer - was tossed; today it may well be worth quite a bit both in dollars and in helping determine a technology time line. Ditto a lot of buildings.

 

A lot of buildings could and should have been saved for their historic relevance and a lot of 'em that are just junk have been "saved" and put on various historic registers at great expense because they fit a given politic at a given time and place.

 

So... It's interesting. But seriously, thing of how many nice buildings one could make from the Great Pyramid or one one might have a great tourist vantage point if we razed the Parthenon.

 

m

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The first chord book i bought was a Mel Bay in 1980 and i still have it here somewhere..........

 

I am in Missouri so if you need a letter sent to one of our crap senators PM me.

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Jeez, It's almost the plot of the new Muppets movie (Which was awesome by the way).

 

That's terrible, I too have lots of Mel Bay stuff, and it seems like parking isn't that big a factor for your city despite the agreement.

 

In Halifax we have protected "Historic Buildings" that range from old local businesses, to Victorian style houses. The tenants get some support from the city but the owners have to maintain a particular facade for the public and tourists. They have plaques on the front of their buildings to identify them as Historic.

 

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I wish such things were simple decisions.

 

I know I've personally battled up to the federal level for one building on federal property - a once-important U.S. Army fort - that I watched fall from an almost-restorable condition in the 1960s to a pile of rubble in the 90s.

 

On the other hand... I've seen structures added to the federal historic list that already were beyond potential repair even for safety considerations - and I consider that ridiculous.

 

These things tend to be rather cyclical within a state/province in North America, anyway, with periods of greater and lesser interest. That causes a bit of additional problem for Larry and such the Mel Bay building if the issue doesn't arise during the high water of a pro-conservation public awareness and emphasis.

 

I'm glad this subject arose because I have an article or two of my own I need to get out to the state historical society.

 

m

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Too bad about those buildings. Are they currently being used or occupied? Unfortunately, "progress" usually wins out over sentimental considerations like history, tradition etc.

 

My first guitar instruction book was an illustrated Mel Bay book that came in a box with one or two 33rpm records. I wish I still had that set now. #-o

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So I'm not sure what the consensus is.

 

Nobody is taking the building, it isn't a tax sale, it isn't abandoned or absentee owned.

 

Is the consensus that Mel Bay and sons shouldn't be allowed to sell their building? Because that would really betray any American Rights and all that other bumper sticker stuff.

 

Lets be honest. The only people that care about Mel Bay are the Mel Bay family and us few guitar players that all had a halfa dozen Mel Bay books under the bed. There really aren't that many of either.

 

rct

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So I'm not sure what the consensus is.

 

Nobody is taking the building, it isn't a tax sale, it isn't abandoned or absentee owned.

 

Is the consensus that Mel Bay and sons shouldn't be allowed to sell their building? Because that would really betray any American Rights and all that other bumper sticker stuff.

 

Lets be honest. The only people that care about Mel Bay are the Mel Bay family and us few guitar players that all had a halfa dozen Mel Bay books under the bed. There really aren't that many of either.

 

rct

Preservation doesn't meant preventing the sale. Perhaps the Hard Rock Cafe would be interested, or the Country Music Association. There's entities that may want to buy it for something more than a Parking Lot.

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That's sad to hear, Larry! We're going through a similar situation, here...in my much smaller town.

Set to loose almost a 1/4 of a block of "historic" (at least for our town) buildings, being torn down.

In our case, however it had become necessary, as the "absentee owner," did no maintenance, and the

buildings became structurally unsound, and condemned. They could have been saved, had anyone here,

with the money (and there are plenty of those folks) chosen to purchase back, the building(s), and

restore them. Didn't happen, probably never would have, as all the folks with any real sense of

history, and love of the community, beyond what they can get out of it, are mostly gone (died or moved

away)! "Fix it, with a new one!" Is the SOP, these days! To Hell, with how it looks, or how well

it integrates, into the rest of the town's facade. We'll just tear that down, as well, and start over!

#$%^&*()_!!!! [cursing]

 

CB

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