By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Temple University’s Art gallery is closing out its community awareness campaign in Mantua today with a funeral for a home. Sound strange?
Every year, the city of Philadelphia demolishes hundreds of homes. Most go down little fanfare, but each one has a history that tells the story of a neighborhood. So tomorrow the Funeral of a Home project will pay homage one row home at 3711 Melon Street in Mantua, a neighborhood recently designated a “promise zone” by President Barack Obama.
“That house is just big and awkward sitting there, but inside it was just beautiful,” says Audrey Davis Crocker, 91. She has lived across from the boarded up Melon Street rowhome for six decades, but remembers when Leona Washington, a seamstress, who lived there and thrived.
“We’d go in and sit down and talk we would listen to the radio,” she says, “it was an ordinary house, but it was very nice.”
“Part of the homegoing service will be the eulogies, but it will also include a portion of the demolition,” says Robert Blackson of Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, which launched the community awareness campaign that integrates art with history. He says the “funeral” will include music and repast.
“You can’t really mourn something unless you’ve loved it,” says Blackman, “this home was loved by so many people and so many people love Mantua.”
In her late 60s, Ardie Stuart Brown grew up a stone’s throw away from the Melon Street home and as a storyteller, she has been selected to eulogize it before it is torn down.
“Just to think about what this neighborhood was, it was our home, it was our sanctuary,” says Brown, “it’s going to be hard to do a eulogy for this building and more importantly to watch Mantua change.”
Saturday morning at 11, the original owners will gather with Mantua residents to say goodbye to 3711 Melon Street.
Blackman says plans are in the works to use the lot for low income housing.
The project was arranged by Temple Contemporary and designed by local artists Billy and Steven Dufala. Other collaborators include the the Mantua Civic Association, Mount Vernon Manor Inc., Mt. Olive Baptist Church and Mantua Community Improvement Committee.