A New Initiative to Protect Black History Starts with Coltrane

The American jazz musician John Coltrane bought a three-story brick rowhouse in Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood in 1952, using it as his primary residence or a stopping point when on tour until he died in 1967.

John Coltrane’s home at 1511 North 33rd Street within Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion District that he purchased in 1952.Credit…Library of Congress

“I remember playing the upright piano in the home,” said Ravi Coltrane, 58, the son of Coltrane and his second wife Alice Coltrane, an acclaimed harpist. “My father wrote a lot of music on that piano in the 1950s. He composed ‘Naima’ on that piano and many of the pieces he recorded on the album ‘Blue Train’.”

Framed pictures of John Coltrane and his record albums on display on the dining room piano at his former home.Credit…Library of Congress

The rowhouse was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1999. But in recent years, the condition of the rowhouse has deteriorated and is currently in need of major repairs and restoration.

On Tuesday, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced that the rowhouse will be the first site to receive financial support through a new initiative called the Descendants and Family Stewardship. The action fund will assist in coordinating and financing the transfer of Coltrane’s home from its current owner back to his family. The extended Coltrane family has strong ties to the rowhouse: Coltrane’s mother, first cousin, childhood friend, and eventually Juanita Grubbs, his first wife who also was known as Naima, lived with him when he first bought it. And his mother and cousin lived there permanently. After Coltrane’s death in 1967, the home remained in the family for many years; his cousin, Mary Alexander, owned the house until 2004.

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