Preliminary Preservation Plans Announced for Coltrane Home

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced preliminary plans Oct. 10 for the preservation of John and Alice Coltrane’s home in Dix Hills, New York—a 3.4-acre property that provided the couple a respite from city life—and named the property a “National Treasure.”

Brent Leggs, senior field officer for the trust, delivered the news from a podium perched on the home’s front porch as community leaders, volunteers and fans of the Coltranes gathered for the announcement. Event attendees included Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (Dix Hills is a village within Huntington) and other state and local leaders, as well as Coltrane scholar Yasuhiro Fujioka and Pat DeRosa, John Coltrane’s friend and a fellow tenor saxophone player.

Prior to Alice Coltrane’s death in January 2017, she envisioned the property’s future, but the home hasn’t always been on the verge of restoration.

In 2004, a developer planned demolition of property, but Huntington resident Steve Fulgoni led an effort to preserve the home as a historic landmark. Two years later, the town purchased the site and deeded ownership to the then-newly formed organization Friends of the Coltrane Home in Dix Hills, which Fulgoni helped found. In 2011, the trust recognized the property as one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the United States.

This current restoration effort has two goals: stabilize the home, and strategize and implement a vision for future use. During the presentation, Leggs delved into details regarding the home’s interior—herringbone-patterned wood paneling in the living room and shag carpeting in Alice’s meditation room—but noted the current campaign is a process, not a quick fix. The roof has been replaced and soffits have been repaired; the next phase of work will focus on the home’s exterior, including repairing the brick façade and strengthening the foundation. Restoration of a recording studio that once was inside the home also has been discussed. No timeline for work was announced.

“Preservation takes time,” Leggs said. “That’s why the project is more than a decade in the making. We are honoring the Coltrane Home as a National Treasure to develop local and national support for the project.”

That support could come in many forms, including volunteer efforts and grant funding. In July, the trust awarded a $75,000 grant through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund—an organization for which Leggs acts as director—so Coltrane Home board members could hire a project manager to oversee the restoration.

For some, the home is perceived as an incubator for transcendent music and a wellspring of artistic expression. For others, it’s the intersection of unbound creativity and family life, serving as a reminder that every generation can be, in John Coltrane’s words, a force for good.

Michelle Coltrane, daughter of Alice and John, lived in the Dix Hills home as a child and sees it as a matter of legacy.

“Their work—it had a higher meaning, a universal approach,” she said at the event. “And they lived that way. So, there was a respect for other cultures and other people’s music. Through their belief system and through their ideals, this house has come together. The home—the word itself—has brought people together in a way that everyone can understand. Something about ‘home’ seems to be very well received.”

The announcement promises a new phase of restoration for the Coltrane Home, but also presents a new set of challenges. Board members are hoping for an uptick in financial support following the grant allocation. But because the house is in need of maintenance, restoration efforts face another financial challenge: matching the $250,000 New York state grant that would stabilize the building.

To reach that goal, Coltrane Home Board President Ron Stein announced a Kickstarter campaign aimed at supporting restoration and future programming.

In addition to funding needed for the development of site programming, Stein and board members estimate they’ll need between $1 million and $1.5 million to move the project into the next phase of development, which includes refurbishing its interior and opening the space to the public. Connecting with area residents on future plans also is in the works. But Michelle Coltrane is certain everyone’s working toward the same goal.

“Just as people—not even as artists,” she said, “we’re all just waiting to be inspired by something.” DB



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July 2019
Anat Cohen
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