Though renowned American jazz artist John Coltrane has gained worldwide acclaim, it will take much more support to restore his deteriorating home just off the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills—the birthplace of one of the greatest jazz masterpieces of all-time.
Earlier this week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation—a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, DC whose goal is to protect places where great moments from history occurred—named the Coltrane Home on its annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Coltrane moved from Queens into the ranch-style house in 1964 to spend more time with his family. He transformed the basement into a recording studio and the guest room into a composition space. It was in this house that Coltrane wrote his famous album A Love Supreme, which has sold over 1 million copies and is often ranked among the greatest jazz works of all time.
“This place really matters,” Wendy Nicholas, director of the National Trust’s northeast regional office, tells the Press during a recent tour. “It was home to one of our nation’s finest musicians in the place where he wrote his absolute signature masterpiece.”
Though Coltrane passed away in 1967, his family continued to live in the house until they moved to California in 1971. The property changed hands several times before being slated for demolition in 2003 to build three new houses. That led to Dix Hills resident and Coltrane enthusiast Steve Fulgoni contacting Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland in an effort to save the historic location. In 2006, he convinced the town to purchase the house and convert the surrounding property into parkland.
“John [Coltrane] spoke that he dedicated his life to being a force for good,” says Fulgoni, also in attendance. “The Town of Huntington enabled us to have a place to continue his mission.”
With help from the Coltrane family, Fulgoni founded the Friends of the John Coltrane Home, a nonprofit that has taken the lead in drumming support for the site’s restoration and raising much-needed funds for its preservation.
Coltrane’s son Ravi, who resided at the house until age 6, led the walkthrough. All the rooms were empty; many suffered mold damage. Black and white photographs of his father performing hung above the fireplace. In the basement, formerly Coltrane’s studio, a small picture depicted how it appeared when “Trane” (his nickname) resided here: full of recording equipment and soundboards.
Ravi credits Fulgoni and the National Trust with preserving a place so dear to his heart.
“I knew in the back of my mind that this house would always stand,” he tells the Press. “Everyone involved in the community and worldwide came together to save this place.”
Though the Friends’ initial steps to transform the historic home into a cultural and musical site that would include a museum, learning facility and outreach center for music education have been gaining steam, making it a reality requires more planning and financial backing, say supporters.
“The bad news is that the house is in need of a lot of repair, beginning with simple mold remediation on the inside, so that it can be opened and repurposed,” explains Nicholas.
“We’ve raised about $100,000,” Fulgoni tells the Press. “We need to jump it up so we can do some major transformation. We’re hoping we can take it to the next level.”
The next step is to create a comprehensive report that will assess the current condition of the building, make recommendations for the best restoration practices and interpret how to utilize the house as a museum space, explains supporters—something that will cost as much as $75,000 alone.
The group has already received matching grant funding of $38,310 from the State of New York as well as $5,000 from the National Trust to kick start the process.
“The combination of those two funds will allow us to begin the master plan,” explains Friends’ board member Ron Stein. “The study and the master plan are necessary to determine what in this home needs to be preserved and how to go through the very careful restoration of this home as we move it into an archives, museum and learning center.”
The entire project will likely cost over $1 million, according to proponents, so the Friends, the Town of Huntington and the National Trust have appealed to both community members and Coltrane enthusiasts worldwide for financial support.
Donors, including Coltrane collectors from overseas, have already expressed interest in contributing their personal collections to the site once it becomes a museum that can safely house the rare pieces.
“All preservation is local,” says Nicholas. “We encourage residents of Huntington and the legions of Coltrane fans around the world to come help.”
Huntington town historian Robert Hughes says he hopes the project will receive the necessary financial support since he feels the home is a significant national site.
“For Coltrane fans, this is a big deal,” says Hughes. “They consider this as a Mecca. Internationally, people come from all over the world just to see it and be in the presence of Coltrane’s spirit.”
In the words of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, repeated numerous times by supporters during a recent tour of the house: “One thought can produce millions of vibrations.”
Fulgoni’s one thought of refurbishing the facility has come to fruition, and he hopes the effort will gain even more attention and support.
For more information on the progress of this project, visit www.thecoltranhome.org. To make a $10 donation to the National Trust, text “PLACES” to 25383.