Paving America's Cultural Heritage

Individuals have saved many of the churches, turning them into homes, daycare centers or businesses, which may sacrifice the former meaning of the often starkly beautiful structures, but at least keeps them maintained, said Dale Bentley, the executive director of Preservation North Dakota, a private group.

Many communities, too, have come up with innovative ways to save the churches, some even rotating where the whole town goes for services each Sunday so all the churches will still be used.

"There are no buildings that are more culturally or socially significant in our state than these churches," Bentley said. "They were often the first building put up by the pioneers and they had the most cultural investment of any building in a community."

There are thousands of homes, farms, factories and schools that may not have enough broad importance to deserve a place on the national registry, but have meaning locally, whether through historic association or architectural interest. Many states and local governments have their own lists for buildings or sites they consider significant, including those they consider threatened.

"That's the key word — significant," Tyler said.

The significance in many cases has nothing to do with the architecture and everything to do with who lived there or what happened there.

Perfectly ordinary homes have been preserved in New York, Detroit, San Francisco and Seattle because jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, soul music mogul Berry Gordy and rock guitarists Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix lived in them.

Like those other homes, the Coltrane house would never be considered for preservation based on its design. And because people in Dix Hills had lost track of where the jazz giant lived, it had not made it onto the town's list of historic places before the developer bought the property.

But now the local government — the Town of Huntington — is considering what can be done to find a way to save the home.

The developer, Ash Agrawal, is willing to sell it to the town, and seems willing to hold off on any deal for the property to see if Fulgoni or the town can find a buyer who wants to preserve it, said Robert Hughes, the secretary of the Huntington Historic Preservation Committee.

Agrawal did not return calls from for comment on the house.

The town's open space committee is considering the possibility of buying it, though the $1.05 million pricetag is awfully high, Huntington Town councilwoman Susan Berland said.

"The town has purchased some historical homes, but not at this amount of money," she said. "The key is to find somebody who would come forward and buy it to preserve it as Coltrane's home."

Fulgoni said he believes that would be the best option.

"He [the developer] said, here's my price, if you get my price, it's yours,' " Fulgoni said. "I'm trying to find someone who can come forward, a benefactor, who could offer support to save this important cultural site."

Fulgoni contacted Coltrane's widow, Alice Coltrane, who lived in the house until 1973 and currently runs the John Coltrane Foundation, and she said the group would try to help.

She said during the time they lived in the house, Coltrane's music turned much more spiritual than it had been earlier in his career, a spirituality that was captured in what many consider his masterwork, the four-movement suite A Love Supreme, which he wrote in the house soon after moving there.

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