To many, boarded up houses are eyesores and blight, blurry visages viewed through rapidly passing El or car windows. To me as a high schooler riding the chartered SEPTA bus to my Hunting Park school from my Northeast Philly neighborhood, they were unanswered questions. Who lived there? Why aren’t they there anymore? Where did they go? Why is that house abandoned and boarded up while the ones on either side are inhabited? Who stays and why?
Each year, more than 600 uninhabited homes are demolished in the city of Philadelphia. Most are row homes, the iconic Philadelphia house.
This year, a special project recorded the history of one such home and the neighborhood around it, while attempting to address those questions, as I learned for my article With ‘Funeral for a Home,’ West Philly history becomes civic pride.
The culminating event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, May 31, that features a Home Going celebration, the home’s demolition, a procession, and a communal meal. The project “commemorates the slow decline and gradual rebirth of Philadelphia’s housing stock and the lives these homes contain” and offers “reflections of the selected house as well as the proud history and coming future of Mantua.”
Most demolished houses disappear with no recognition, but 3711 Melon will be spared that fate. The funeral recognizes its history, acknowledges the present, and adds to the discussion about the future that tearing it down will help to create.