Civic News

What could save the John Coltrane House in Strawberry Mansion? This artist and public historian are betting on NFTs

Following years of advocacy by Faye Anderson to preserve the ailing home, artist Chris Hytha will support fundraising efforts by hosting a John Coltrane House NFT on OpenSea for auction.

North Philadelphia's John Coltrane House.

(Photo via public domain)

The historic John Coltrane House has sat in limbo, decaying for the last several years, despite it being a state-recognized historical landmark.

The jazz musician lived in the home in the 1950s, where he composed the album “Giant Steps,” but the property — facing Fairmount Park on 33rd Street in Strawberry Mansion — has since been home to new owners. The records have been in a tangled title for years, All That Philly Jazz Director Faye Anderson told Technical.ly. (The owner died in 2007, she said.) In recent years, work notices have appeared on other houses on the block, including on the structure directly next door. It further threatens the integrity of the Coltrane home, according to Anderson.

Coltrane House sketch. (Courtesy image)

“Restoring this property to its former glory isn’t just about affirming Coltrane’s presence in Philadelphia,” she wrote in a recent op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Preserving his house sends a powerful message to Philadelphians that this place matters; Black history matters.

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And while the facade and structure of the house at 1511 N. 33rd St. are crumbling, Anderson has set out on a tech-focused mission to attempt to save it. She’s partnered up with artist Chris Hytha to launch an NFT project, the proceeds of which will fund a John Coltrane House virtual tour.

Previous quotes to restore the home to its former glory or host a museum out of it run in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, Anderson said. A virtual tour would bring the potential museum to anyone and showcase what the house looked like when the musician lived there.

“The idea is to make the interior accessible to you at any place in the world,” she said.

Hytha has worked on previous NFT project, Rowhomes, featuring other Strawberry Mansion homes. Anderson saw Rowhomes and the pair connected earlier this year on the Coltrane project. With NFTs being as collectable as Pokémon cards, Philadelphia’s architecture presented an interesting opportunity, Hytha said.

“Philadelphia rowhomes are all of a similar size and dimension, but within that there’s a lot of architectural details that can differ, and I wanted to show that,” he said. 

He’s worked with a few NFT platforms, but this John Coltrane House NFT will also be hosted on OpenSea, like the rowhomes project. It’s expected to drop at some point this May, which is Preservation Month.

The historian and artist are slating part of the proceeds to go toward light preservation of the physical structure and the rest to the virtual museum. They’re hoping for the NFT and virtual tour to cast a wide net for someone with deep pockets to step up and potentially petition the court for conservatorship of the home, Anderson said. The digital assets opens up the possibility for people from all over who care about historic preservation or jazz to get involved.

“Of course NFTs are new and confusing, and I feel like largely one of the consensus is that it feels so intangible,” Hytha said. “It’s another reason I wanted to do this project. It’s interesting to start rooting NFTs into physical world, this digital collectable with real-world impact.”

People: Faye Anderson
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