Ray Charles' Childhood Home Open to Visitors

Ray Charles (1930-2004) grew up in the tiny town of Greenville, Fla., 40 miles from Tallahassee. By 2005, his childhood home was in danger of collapse.

"It was very dilapidated, falling down," says Justina Cone, a member of the all-volunteer Greenville Heritage Committee. "It looked beyond hope."

But one of Charles' childhood friends did have hope. Elesta Pritchett, now the mayor of Greenville, pop. 837, was determined to save the 900-square-foot structure.

"It was just something that I really wanted to do," Pritchett says. "I knew, with the help of others, it could be done."

The town purchased the house in 2006 and two years later won a $48,000 historic preservation grant from the state of Florida. Last September, on what would have been Charles' 79th birthday, the town formally dedicated the house as a museum.

"It was a great day for me," Pritchett says of the Sept. 23 dedication. "I can see in my mind what it looked like then. … It looks exactly [like it did in the 1930s]."

Pritchett also worked to erect a bronze statue of Charles in the town park, and several of the performer's relatives attended an unveiling ceremony in 2006—"a big day for Greenville," Cone says.

The town continues to collect items from the 1930s to furnish the interiors of the Ray Charles Childhood Home, which is currently open by appointment only. Pritchett hopes it will be accessible on a more regular schedule starting this spring.

"When people find out that he's from Greenville, they come from all over; it's amazing," says Jim Parrish, special projects consultant for the town, who helped obtain the state grant. "He came from the depths of poverty in the segregated South."

 

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

Subscribe to the Today's News RSS feed

Comments

Submitted by wacka flacka at: February 22, 2011
i been there too and id say it is awseome

Submitted by GREENVILLE HERITAGE COMMITTEE at: June 14, 2010
Our first open house was a success! Thanks to all that were able to attend. The RAY CHARLES CHILDHOOD HOME will be open again for tours on 19 June 2010, Saturday, 10:00-2:00. Group tours are available; contact City Hall at 850.948.2211 to schedule. The Grammy Museum (Los Angeles, CA) visited Greenville, FL in June 2010 for a day of filming interviews with several childhood friends of Ray Charles.

Submitted by ray jr at: May 17, 2010
thank you, so much for your compassion and commitment. i look forward to visiting the home of Ray Charles in the near future.

Submitted by GREENVILLE HERITAGE COMMITTEE at: May 11, 2010
The Ray Charles Childhood Home will be open 10:00-2:00 on Saturday, May 15th, for tours. To answer a previous post: The Ray Charles Childhood Home is owned by the Town of Greenville. The restoration is complete. The Greenville Heritage Committee is an all volunteer committee working to promote the site. Efforts to acquire decor to re-create the 1930s-1940s era within the house are under way. Future plans are to enhance the visitor experience by having artifacts from the yard on display along with additional information about Ray Charles. Town of Greenville may be contacted for information on upcoming days that the house will be open. 850.948.2251

Submitted by money maker at: March 16, 2010
That's the same house in the movie the same one when he feel in the washer mashine that's how he got pine

Submitted by vybxctfkjhfgv at: March 9, 2010
this is not helping me

Submitted by Bert Godfrey at: February 10, 2010
I visited the home during the Christmas holidays. It was quite interesting, especially the hand prime pump restored in the back yard, I also revisited the monument in the park. Alberta Wells Godfrey Immediate Past Chair Miami-Dade Division of Historic Preservation

Submitted by Let's_Play_Two at: February 9, 2010
Thanks! I will add the Ray Charles home to my Florida sites to see that include the Mary McLeod Bethune and Howard Thurman homes in Daytona and Carter-Paramore High School in Quincy.

Submitted by trails2legacies at: February 9, 2010
Congratulations and continued success on this mission!!! Glad the crabs didn't overturn the barrel and you were able to connect the dots to economic development. Miles Davis' childhood home is similarly situated in a city needing economic development...East St. Louis, IL. It's a vision thing, right? I salute Pritchett! Stay the course, lady.

Submitted by fdlester at: February 9, 2010
Thank you, Greenville! Your work on Ray Charles' house puts us all on notice that great talent can come from simple beginnings! Hope we can visit sometime!

Submitted by lloyd at: February 9, 2010
This is great.....will visit soon Gary L. Smith, Member, NTHP

Submitted by Ashanti at: February 9, 2010
Who is the organization working for the restoration? Are there educational programs planned for the site?