In his book on John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, jazz historian Ashley Kahn wrote about how the saxophonist composed the legendary album in near monastic isolation in the summer of 1964. “For five days, Coltrane secluded himself upstairs in his new Long Island home with paper, pen, and saxophone,” Khan wrote. Coltrane’s wife, Alice, recalled to Khan how her husband later emerged with the concept for the entire record. “It was like Moses coming down from the mountain,” she said. “It was so beautiful.”
The site of that musical epiphany — the Dix Hills, Long Island, home where the Coltranes lived starting in 1964 and where Alice recorded her own early albums as a leader after her husband’s death in 1967 — has now been designated a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Trust, with help from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and the Friends of the Coltrane Home, will oversee the restoration of the now-vacant property.
A plan calls for the home’s basement studio, where Alice Coltrane, a pianist and harpist, recorded late Sixties and early Seventies masterpieces such as Journey in Satchidananda, to be turned into an “interactive and creative space” for students and musicians. This aligns with Alice’s wish to use the home to “inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the joy of making music and the creative process.”
“The Long Island home of John and Alice Coltrane is a tangible link to an extremely creative and transformative period in the personal lives and careers of two acclaimed and a talented musicians,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in a statement. “Restoring and reusing the home for music education and outreach presents an outstanding opportunity to honor the Coltranes’ values of innovation, creativity, hard work, and self-empowerment and bring it to life in a space so closely tied to their lives and careers.”
Michelle Coltrane, Alice’s daughter and John’s stepdaughter, lived with them at the home along with the couple’s sons John Jr., Ravi and Oran. “At night, I remember the sounds ascending from the basement studio,” Michelle told Rolling Stone in a statement. “The 2-track tape machines made rippling sounds while they rewound. Then the music would start again. I would sometimes crawl down the stairs to take a peek to see what my parents John and Alice Coltrane were doing. They were both very kind people — even in the midst of their creative process. Of course, I would be returned to my room, tucked in and persuaded to get some sleep.
“Our partnership with the National Historical Trust for Historic Preservation will support our efforts in honoring the life and legacy of John and Alice Coltrane’s creative offerings to the world,” she continued. “The vision to restore the Long Island home as a multi-cultural, interactive creative space is closely aligned with the framework and ideals my mother Alice told me she and John wanted to pursue.”
The 1952 ranch-style home, situated on 3.4 acres, was designated as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2011. Restoration has begun on the home and will continue with help from the National Trust. The land, owned by the Town of Huntington, will be turned into a park.