If you were to stop by 207 East 30th Street in New York today you would find “The Wilshire”, a modest nine story apartment building where you might find a two-bedroom for rent for the reasonable New York price of a little over $3000 per month. However, if you were to have stopped by the address between 1949 and 1981, you might have run into such jazz luminaries as Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck or Thelonious Monk. You may have even bumped into rock royalty in the likes of Bob Dylan or the members of Pink Floyd since this is the address of what many have claimed to be the greatest recording studio in history, Columbia’s 30th Street Studio.
The location, originally the site of the Adams-Parkhurst Memorial Presbyterian Church, was left abandoned for many years when, in 1949, Columbia Records converted the building into its primary New York based recording studio. “The Church” as it was affectionately known given its history, was home to some of the most memorable recordings in jazz, most notably Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Dream, Charles Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um and The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s (pictured above) Time Out. It also gave birth to some of rock’s most famous recordings as well including Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home and Pink Floyd’s The Wall among others.
The studio was essentially one large room, the former church hall itself, with 100 foot ceilings, which provided a beautiful and natural reverb. The size of the studio satisfied Columbia’s needs very well being that it accommodated large orchestras for film scores, Broadway recordings and symphonies for classical music. The studio quickly raised the benchmark for audio quality in American recorded music, which also served to help sell more of Columbia’s then latest innovation, the long-playing (LP) record.
The studio was home to most of Miles Davis’ Columbia recordings, including of course Davis’s aforementioned classic, Kind of Blue as well as other legendary Davis albums such as Sketches of Spain and Bitches Brew along with numerous recordings by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.
The studio met with its demise in 1982 when Columbia’s then parent company CBS were handcuffed with numerous constraints by the building’s owner, which included having to close daily by midnight or before. CBS attempted but failed to purchase the building outright and it was ultimately sold for $4.5 Million, demolished and re-constructed as “The Wilshire” apartment building, which still stands today. The music produced from that former hallowed building lives on however in the great recordings that were made there.