After Temple Contemporary's Funeral for a Home community procession, guests were invited to a sit-down reception for 300 on Melon Street. Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera America.
Under the stewardship of Temple Contemporary and a group of community artists, Funeral for a Home celebrated the life of a single row home before it was razed: 3711 Melon Street in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia, one out of 500 area homes slated to come down in 2014. On Saturday, May 31, the home received a "funeral" to mark its passing: a free public event that included a procession of local residents and clergy, youth orchestra and gospel choir performances, and a remembrance service that included a neighborhood "repast" meal.
Supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Funeral for a Home has been a direct response to years of widespread demolition in Philadelphia, and an effort to generate critical thinking, discussion, and action around issues of housing redevelopment and preservation. The project has received extensive media attention, prior to the funeral and after.
"Most residential demolitions are decidedly less ceremonious," writes Stephanie Garlock at CityLab. "That's certainly the way many neighbors in West Philadelphia's Mantua neighborhood felt when they first heard of the idea earlier this year. But as Mt. Olive's Pastor Harry Moore, Sr. reminded those who came to celebrate and mourn the life of 3711 Melon, 'These homes are like individuals—up one day and down the next.' So the community gathered, to remember one of its own." Read more >
At Al Jazeera America, Kate Kilpatrick discusses the funeral service and the history of the Mantua neighborhood: "Artists Steven Dufala and his brother Billy Dufala conceptualized Funeral for a Home. Though they've been in the neighborhood for years, they began attending Mount Olive church services, well, religiously, while planning the event. [...] It was a rare mix of religion, art, demolition and historic preservation." Read more >
Peter Crimmins writes for NPR's All Things Considered, "There is nothing particularly exceptional about this house—in fact, it's kind of ugly. But that's exactly why historian Patrick Grossi, of Temple University's Tyler School of Art, says it deserves a funeral. 'The loss of vernacular architecture is often hidden in plain sight,' Grossi says. 'When a kind of modest house is being run down, you are erasing a century of lifetimes.'" Read more >
For the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jeff Gammage recounts details of the funeral: "The tone was by turns somber and happy, the soundtrack a church organ or the angelic voices of the Mount Olive Church choir. [...] 'This is a start,' Mount Olive pastor Harry Moore Sr. told the crowd. 'This is a start of affordable housing coming to the community.'"
At Next City, Cassie Owens writes, "Michael R. Allen, the director of the Preservation Research Office who recently explored trends in historic preservation for Next City's Forefront, says the memorial is in step with newer movements in the field, 'creating a space in which memory can be preserved, while the house itself disappears.' [...] '[Ordinary homes] make up the lifeblood of urban neighborhoods, and their erasure—that's what we feel the hardest,' said Allen." Read more >
Funeral for a Home has received additional press from a number of sources, including NBC 10 Philadelphia, CBS Philly, NewsWorks, Gawker, the Associated Press, the Toronto Sun, and elsewhere. Click here to learn more about the project, or visit the Funeral for a Home website.