CBS 30th Street Studio, also known as Columbia 30th Street Studio, and nicknamed "The Church", was an American recording studio operated by Columbia Records from 1948 to 1981 located at 207 East 30th Street, between Second and Third Avenues in Manhattan, New York City.
Actually containing two Columbia sound rooms -- "Studio C" and "Studio D" -- the facility was considered by some in the music industry to offer the best-sounding recording venue of its time, while others considered it to have been the greatest recording studio in history. Numerous recordings were made there in all genres, including Ray Conniff's 'S Wonderful (1956), Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (1959), Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast recording, 1957), Percy Faith's Theme from A Summer Place (1960), and Pink Floyd's The Wall (1979).
The site was originally the Adams-Parkhurst Memorial Presbyterian Church, a mission of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, designed by the architect J. Cleaveland Cady, and was dedicated March 28, 1875. A number of groups shared the building over the years, including a German Lutheran congregation, an Armenian Evangelical Church (1896-1921), and radio station WLIB (1944-1952).
The recording studio had 100 foot high ceilings, a large floorspace for the recording area, and the control room was on the second floor being only 8 by 14 feet. Later, the control room was moved down to the ground floor.
"It was huge and the room sound was incredible," recalls Jim Reeves, a sound technician who had worked in it. "I was inspired," he continues "by the fact that, aside from the artistry, how clean the audio system was."
Many celebrated musical artists from all genres of music used the 30th Street Studio for some of their most famous recordings.
Bach: The Goldberg Variations, the 1955 debut album of the Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould, was recorded in the 30th Street Studio. It was an interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), the work launched Gould's career as a renowned international pianist, and became one of the most well-known piano recordings. On May 29, 1981, a second version of the Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould was recorded in this studio, a year before Gould's death. It was also the last production by the famous studio.
Among Rudolf Serkin's legendary recordings, Beethoven's piano sonatas, nos. 1, 6, 12, 13, 16, 21 (Waldstein), 30, 31 and 32 were recorded there between 1967 and 1980.
Vladimir Horowitz recorded his entire Masterworks (originally Columbia then Sony Classical) discography at the studio.
Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis recorded almost exclusively at the 30th Street Studio during his years under contract to Columbia, including his album Kind of Blue (1959). Other noteworthy jazz musicians having recorded in this place include Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck and Billie Holiday with Ray Ellis (Lady in Satin, 1958).
Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson recorded at "The Church," including her Christmas album Sweet Little Jesus Boy (1955).
In 1964, Bob Dylan and record producer Tom Wilson were experimenting with their own fusion of rock and folk music. The first unsuccessful test involved overdubbing a "Fats Domino early rock & roll thing" over Dylan's earlier, recording of "House of the Rising Sun", using non-electric instruments, according to Wilson. This took place in the Columbia 30th Street Studio in December 1964. It was quickly discarded, though Wilson would more famously use the same technique of overdubbing an electric backing track to an existing acoustic recording with Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence".
Columbia failed to buy the building (for an estimated $250,000; equivalent to $630,000 after inflation) when they abandoned their contracts with the studio in 1982. CBS felt constrained by restrictions imposed by the owner, including a closing time of 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. The owner then sold it for $1.2 million, and it was quickly reacquired for $4.5 million ($11 million after inflation).