One of Indiana’s most stately and renowned private residences is being donated to the Great American Songbook Foundation in Carmel.
The 107-acre Asherwood estate is the former home of philanthropist Bren Simon and her late husband Mel Simon, co-founder of Simon Property Group. Bren Simon’s gift includes all the real estate and personal property at Asherwood, with a total value appraised at more than $30 million.
Chris Lewis, executive director of the Great American Songbook Foundation, says the estate holds promise as a potential site for a freestanding Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Museum, dedicated to the popular music of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and Hollywood. The organization is currently based at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
“We have over 100,000 items in our songbook archives," Lewis says. "We are second only to the Library of Congress as a repository for materials and papers related to the early to mid-century golden age of American popular music.”
The foundation's staff and board members will begin work immediately to evaluate the possibile uses for the donated property, which 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.
“Plan to start off right away with a feasibility study to see how best we can use it toward our mission whether that’s the archives, museum or how to use it for fundraising events for the foundation," Lewis says. "The possibilities are endless.”
Internationally known performer and preservationist Michael Feinstein started the Great American Songbook Foundation in 2007. And has served as artistic director at Center for the Performing Arts since 2009.