Restoration of Coltrane's childhood home begins

Jul. 29—HIGH POINT — The project to restore John Coltrane's childhood home has begun in earnest.

With a $250,000 grant from the N.C. General Assembly in hand, the High Point Preservation Society has initiated plans to not only preserve the nearly century-old historic house at 118 Underhill St. but to transform it into a tourist destination.

"Our primary intention is to stabilize the house and make it secure for tours," said Benjamin Briggs, president of the preservation society board. "The house was never conditioned for tours — it's been vacant for some time — but our goal is to use these funds ... to enhance the structure for the city to use it for tourism."

According to Briggs, the restoration of the compact, two-story house will be a multifaceted project that will include painting the exterior, reglazing the windows and renovating the portico on the side of the house.

"We'll also do surface treatments inside the house so it looks appropriate to the time period of the Coltranes," Briggs said. "And we'll do some very careful removing of the existing kitchen — since the house isn't going to be used as a residence — and an upstairs bathroom."

The project may also include restoration of the home's staircase, which originally had two downstairs entry points — one from the back door and one from the kitchen — that met at a small landing leading to the flight of stairs.

Other improvements will include the addition of a ramp for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, an upgraded electrical system, and a heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit that will be adequate for a public facility, Briggs said.

In accordance with the grant, the restoration project must be complete by June 2023, Briggs said.

Formally known as the Blair-Coltrane House, the structure was built in the Dutch Colonial style by Coltrane's maternal grandfather, the Rev. W.W. Blair, and the family moved into the house in 1929.

Coltrane, who would become one of the most influential jazz artists in history, lived in the house until 1943, when he graduated from William Penn High School. It was during those years that he developed his love for music and began to blossom as a performer, first playing the clarinet and later the saxophone.

Still at its original site, the Blair-Coltrane House was designated a Guilford County Historic Landmark in December 2020.

jtomlin@hpenews.com — 336-888-3579