John Coltrane House Digital Reconstruction

National Preservation Month began as National Historic Week in May 1973. It has been a month-long celebration since 2005. This year’s theme, “People Saving Places,” encapsulates efforts to save the John Coltrane House.

The Coltrane House has been in a deteriorating condition for more than two decades. Restoration has been stymied by, i.a., legal entanglements (the owner of record died in 2007) and lack of imagination. Over the past 20 years, there have been several schemes to repurpose the property as a historic house museum. The schemers failed to recognize that the historic house museum business model wherein an organization has to raise millions of dollars before the property is open to the public and millions more to keep the door open is no longer feasible.

As I wrote in an op-ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, an Act 135 conservatorship is the only viable option to save this National Historic Landmark.

I am collaborating with Chris Hytha, a digital artist and founder of the Rowhomes project, to raise awareness that the rowhome in which Coltrane lived from 1952 to 1958 is at risk. Hytha will create the John Coltrane House NFT, a unique digital artwork. He said:

NFTs are deeply rooted in the culture of collectability. Featuring the John Coltrane House would add another layer of historical significance, and has the potential to introduce this piece of Philadelphia history to a global audience. Collecting memorabilia has been a part of our culture for centuries, and NFTs provide a new outlet to raise funds for the preservation of this National Historic Landmark.

At the same time, I will team up with an architecture firm that is a pioneer in virtual design and construction. Building on architectural drawings, archival photos, scholarly research and oral histories, we will reconstruct the exterior and interior. In so doing, we will create a new paradigm for historic preservation. The interior of the rowhome where Coltrane experienced a “spiritual awakening” will be accessible to virtual visitors wherever they are in the world.

We will cast a wide net for a financially-capable alternate stewardship – an Act 135 conservatorship – to preserve the structure, the tangible reminder of John Coltrane, in public memory. We are taking giant steps to preserve for current and future generations the rowhome where John Coltrane composed “Giant Steps.”

For more info, contact All That Philly Jazz Director Faye Anderson at phillyjazzapp@gmail.com.