Strawberry Mansion: Preserving a Legend

Jazz legend John Coltrane lived in Philadelphia from 1952 to 1958.  His Strawberry Mansion home still stands on 1511 N. 33rd St. with a historical plaque in front.  It was named a historical building in 1999 by the Philadelphia Historical Commission. The commission’s office in City Hall still holds many old photographs and legal documents on file.

Norman Gadson, the late owner of the building, left the property to his daughter, who is not old enough to legally own the property.  The family is in the planning process of preserving the Coltrane home.

The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia is working with the Gadson family in an effort to maintain the home as a cultural center.  Melissa Jest, the neighborhood coordinator for The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and field representative for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is helping with technical assistance to improve the property.

She assembled a team to evaluate the condition of the building and what steps should be taken toward turning it into a cultural center.  “We visited the property, looked at the exterior, the condition of the building and examined the interior.  The family is being very responsible and cautious for such an intensive process,” Jest said.

Strawberry Mansion residents would like to see it become something more than an abandoned house.  Carlos Ferra, a construction worker in Strawberry Mansion, repairs many homes in the area.  “A lot of houses are being repaired and a lot of people are working on them.  I haven’t seen anyone down there,” Ferra said about the Coltrane house.

“The cutbacks are going to affect funding for the home. I’m pretty hopeful that we all recognize that life has to go on and a big part of our life in Philadelphia is that we have wonderful cultural resources and historical resources like the John Coltrane House,” Jest said.  While the future of the building is uncertain, The Preservation Alliance remains optimistic that the house will be repaired.


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