Winter Threatens John Coltrane House

Coltrane
The interior of the Long Island house where John Coltrane lived with his family from 1964 until 1967, when he died of liver cancer at age 40.

Credit: Akiyoshi Miyashita, Courtesy Yasuhiro ?Fuji? Fujioka

A ranch house built in 1952 in Dix Hills, N.Y., may look modest, but it was the last home of jazz great John Coltrane.

The famed saxophonist and composer lived in the four-bedroom residence for three years, until his death in 1967. (It's also where he composed the epic album "A Love Supreme.") Today, having stood vacant for several years, the house needs top-to-bottom repairs.

"The home is secured, and it's alarmed. But without heat, every season that passes takes a further toll on it," says Steve Fulgoni, a Dix Hills resident who has been working to save the house for six years.

A former town historian, Fulgoni discovered in 2003 that the house was slated to be torn down for a subdivision. He helped convince the Town of Huntington to designate it a landmark in May 2004, saving it from demolition. The town went one step further, purchasing the 3.4-acre site from the developer of the subdivision in 2005 and creating John Coltrane Park. Ownership of the house was later transferred to the Friends of the Coltrane Home, a Dix Hills nonprofit whose board of directors includes Fulgoni and the Coltrane family. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The house remains "miraculously intact" and unaltered since the last Coltranes moved out in 1973, Fulgoni says. Even the "meditation room," which John Coltrane built over the garage as a practice space, retains its colorful 1970s shag rug.

Fulgoni's group wants to turn the house into a museum where schoolchildren can learn about Coltrane's music and values. "We want to preserve the legacy of the man John Coltrane, and his wife, Alice, who were two people who really dedicated their lives to doing good, using music as their vehicle," Fulgoni says. "Unfortunately, it's not something we can do in small pieces."

Without money, Fulgoni's dreams remain at a standstill. He estimates that it will cost close to $1 million to upgrade heating and electrical systems, remediate mold, and install a new roof. "The fundraising has been pretty overwhelming," Fulgoni admits.

There may be help on the way. The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Northeast Office, which wrote a letter in 2004 urging the Town of Huntington to landmark the house, plans to organize a charette, or formal brainstorming session, to discuss the future of the structure.

"The potential for this site is tremendous," says Brent Leggs, field representative in the National Trust's Northeast Office, based in Boston. Leggs wants to "create some partnerships so Steve [Fulgoni] isn't doing everything by himself."

Donations can be sent to: Friends of the Coltrane Home, P.O. Box 395, Deer Park, N.Y., 11729 or call (631) 860-9200.

John Coltrane's Philadelphia House

In 1999, the city of Philadelphia designated as a city landmark the three-story brick rowhouse that Coltrane bought in 1952. Today the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia is working to assess the Colonial Revival building and plan its rehabilitation.

For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.

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Comments

Submitted by restorevt at: December 20, 2009
...being a contractor specializing in historic preservation, I agree with taz4021, saving and preserving a ranch home, even one that "Washington slept in" shouldn't cost more than 300 thousand dollars. Good luck, it's a very worthwhile cause.

Submitted by Ann at: December 11, 2009
Sara Smith's idea is a good one -- to merge the LI NY & Philadelphia house/boards -- especially since the distance between them is not TOO great. Collaboration is important everywhere -- and this would maximize their interpretive / educational objectives.

Submitted by Eddie at: December 11, 2009
My ancestors lived in Anderson County, S.C. so this article was very interesting to me. Thanks for all your efforts to preserve the history of America. Eddie

Submitted by taz4021@cavtel.net at: December 11, 2009
I'm all for saving historic landmarks, but having been in construction most of my life (the past 35 years) it seems that the estimate for restoration and refurbishment is way out there. One million dollars for mold remeditation, new electrical and hvac as well as roofing, way too much. I believe a closer cost would be- Mold remediation $30-50,000 max, Roof replacement-$ 40,000 -50,000, New HVAC system-$50,000 max, electrical -$20,000 Grand Total-$170,000 this would not include supervision, testing, disposal, permits,etc. Although these costs are fairly straight forward and reasonable based on the conditions of the home and the market at this time. Of course you have to include the fact that this is a historical lanmark, add an additional 100,000 for any unforseen issues and you should have a fairly correct cost estimate . Regards, Mike LaBelle

Submitted by Sabra Smith at: December 10, 2009
Is there merit for the two groups (Long Island and Phila) to consider working together? Doing so would enable them to tell Coltrane's story over a broader timeline than they could individually and a joint effort might make it easier to increase awareness and raise funds on a national, rather than a local, basis. It seems important here to reach beyond the preservation community and reach jazz enthusiasts who appreciate Coltrane's significant musical legacy.