Coltrane Home in Huntington Named National Treasure

October 9, 2018

Treasures of New York, produced by WLIW, visited a quiet setting in Long Island where jazz legend John Coltrane wrote one of the most acclaimed jazz masterpieces in 1964: “A Love Supreme.”

If it weren’t for the small sign out front, the suburban Dix Hills home in Huntington might go unnoticed – it did for a long time. Today the ranch house was officially announced as a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the musical contributions of both John Coltane and Alice Coltrane. It was already listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places and a locally-designated historic landmark. The home has also received a grant by the newly established African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

Special events on the occasion of the announcement include a free listening party at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City on October 9 at 7 p.m. (arrive by 6:30 p.m. as seating is first-come, first seated, and limited).

John Coltrane bought the home in 1964 when he had already made a name for himself as a saxophonist and a composer, playing with other jazz legends like Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. He lived there three years until his death at age 40. His wife, the accomplished musician Alice Coltrane, recorded five albums in the home’s basement studio and lived here until the family sold the house in the early ’70s.

Thirty years later, the home was set for demolition until a coalition of Coltrane fans campaigned to save it in 2004. Ron Stein, president of what’s now The Coltrane Home nonprofit, helped lead the charge.

“It got picked up by the Daily News, by The New York Times, it went viral, and letters started pouring in from music fans from around the world, and from major musicians – Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock,” remembers Stein.

The house was ultimately purchased by the town. Today it is run by the Coltrane Home nonprofit. The building is now being converted into a cultural center for the public that will utilize and preserve the space, allowing visitors to step into a time when Coltrane lived and created here.

Coltrane introduced what one critic called “sheets of sound” — improvising fast-paced lines and scales in rapid succession. He was a pioneer of the free jazz movement—creating unconventional sounds, chord changes and tempos.

And songs like “Alabama” — written by Coltrane shortly after the 1963 Baptist church bombing in Birmingham that killed four young girls – became a backdrop for the Civil Rights Movement. Some say the composition even follows the structure of Martin Luther King Jr.’s eulogy.

“He used his music to make his social change, and he did. He really inspired people by both the purity of his music, and the intensity of his music, and his willingness to be a force for good,” says Stein.

“When we discovered the home, it was in terrible condition. Rotted soffits, holes in the roof, massive water damage in the house, terrible mold damage in the house, and so what we did, is we worked, and cobbled together pennies and dimes, where we could get them, and eventually got enough money to start stabilizing the house,” says Stein.

After the family sold the house in the 1970s, it was mostly rented out, and no major renovations were made. Much of the carpeting is intact, so it’s being cleaned. The kitchen wasn’t updated, so it can be restored. And an architecture class from Columbia University is in the process of conducting an analysis of chips of paint taken from the walls, so similar colors can be found and used.

Stein says the idea is not just to restore the home, but also to create a space for visitors to learn and create. The building will offer a studio space, and archive of photos and music, and of course, the opportunity to see John Coltrane’s home as it was when he lived here.

John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane (1937 – 2007) are  buried next to one another in Pinelawn Memorial Park, Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York.

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