Home Arts Two artists’ homes listed among the most endangered historic sites in the United States

Two artists’ homes listed among the most endangered historic sites in the United States

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Two artists’ homes are among the 11 most endangered historic places in the United States, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit organization that works to save at-risk sites across the country. The Henry Ossawa Tanner House in Philadelphia and the LV Hull Home and Studio in Kosciusko, Mississippi, were originally residences for black artists, and both have deteriorated badly over the years, leaving their future uncertain.

Built in 1871, the Tanner House in North Philadelphia was the family home of Henry Ossawa Tanner, who was one of the first African-American painters to receive international recognition. Tanner lived in the three-story townhouse as a teenager, while studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and until his late twenties when he moved to France, where he made his known for his religious paintings. Until 1950, the building was also the residence of various other members of the family: his father Benjamin Tucker Tanner, bishop and editor of the Christian recorder, then the nation’s largest black-owned periodical; his mother Sarah Elizabeth Tanner, who emancipated herself from slavery as a child; her younger sister, Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson, the first woman to be a licensed physician in Alabama; and his niece Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, the first black person to earn a doctorate in economics from an American university.

Henry O. Tanner House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A view above the historic home of African-American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) shows damage to the roof of the 1871 townhouse. Photo courtesy of Weitzman School of Design Historic Preservation Studio

While the house was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1976, it faces threats of demolition due to gentrification and the deteriorating condition of the building. In 2021, local black preservations spear a fundraising campaign to save the site. The group recently received a $150,000 planning grant from the Mellon Foundation to conduct community engagement work on the possible future of the house, such as The Philadelphia Investigator reported.

In Kosciusko, the late artist LV Hull made his home a vibrant artistic environment, where assemblages spilled over to his yard. She began making art in 1975, pasting and painting found and discarded materials into works that gradually attracted visitors from around the world. The Kohler Foundation in Wisconsin began keeping his extensive archive, but the property has been vacant since his death in 2008. Hull’s friend, filmmaker Yaphet Smith, bought the house, which has suffered vandalism and exposure to bad weather. In collaboration with the Kosciusko Arts Foundation, it helps raise funds to restore the environment and preserve Hull’s history.

The National Trust has published its annual list of America’s most endangered historic places since 1988 to galvanize greater support for the preservation of significant cultural landmarks. This year’s list too understand a Hualapai-owned gas station in Arizona, an early 19th-century cemetery for enslaved Africans in Georgia, and Chinatowns in Philadelphia and Seattle.

These gathering places, residences and entire neighborhoods comprise “a portfolio of sites almost as diverse as the American experience itself,” Jay Clemens, acting president and chief executive of the National Trust, said in a statement. “The diversity of sites on the 2023 list – and the stories behind them – reflect the complexities and challenges that have always been part of what it means to be American, but which have not always received the attention that they deserve. Losing one of them would diminish us all.

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