'Transformative' Gift to Support Songbook Museum

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A major gift from the widow of Simon Property Group co-founder Mel Simon will help the Carmel-based Great American Songbook Foundation establish a new, freestanding hall of fame museum. Bren Simon has donated the 107-acre Asherwood estate, valued at more than $30 million, to the foundation.

The Asherwood estate is the former home of the Simons and the gift includes all of the real estate and personal property at the site. The foundation says the property "holds enormous promise" as a potential site for the museum and work will begin immediately on a comprehensive feasibility study to evaluate possible uses for the estate.

"This gift is undeniably a game-changer for our organization, and it comes with great accountability," said Chris Lewis, executive director of the Great American Songbook Foundation. "We will proceed very deliberately and strategically to maximize its value as Mrs. Simon intended. We also recognize the interests of the residents and property owners in the area, and their input will be very important."

The foundation says the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Museum will be dedicated to the popular music of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and Hollywood. It will also serve as the permanent home for the Songbook Archives and will expand the foundation's outreach and education programs.

Michael Feinstein, founder of the Great American Songbook Foundation and artistic director at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, calls the donation a "historic moment" for the foundation. "In the decade since we founded the Songbook Foundation and Archives, we have been driven primarily by the challenge of preserving this musical history – literally a race against time, in many cases,” he said. “Now, thanks to this gift, we can look forward to a future of endless possibility."

The Asherwood estate features a fully-furnished 50,000-square-foot main house, and 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, a 6,000-square-foot guest house, and two golf courses.

"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," Bren Simon said in a news release. "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."

You can learn more about the Great American Songbook Foundation by clicking here.

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