Mapping Coltrane's Life

A Google street-view timeline of John Coltrane's residences
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Introduction

This webpage is based primarily on research by Dr. Lewis Porter as presented in his 1998 biography, John Coltrane: His Life and Music (Amazon.com link). I first read this book for a class I took during the Fall 2014 semester at the Southern California entitled "Teaching Jazz History" taught by Dr. Thom Mason. For one assignment, Dr. Mason had the students write a review of a jazz biography. I chose Dr. Porter's Coltrane biography, a book I had been wanting to read for years. I was enthralled from the first page 1, and upon finishing I had a 77-page document of notes complete with it's own index. Porter's thorough and meticulous biography features census records, interviews, transcriptions, harmonic analysis, and much, much, more. A small selection of my notes features every address that was mentioned (many more than the few presented here). Each time I read an address I hopped onto Google Maps and typed it in. I loved seeing the houses, streets, and environments that were part of Coltrane's everyday life, be it where he was born, began learning music, or lived when recording Giant Steps and A Love Supreme. Soon, I started creating the webpage you're looking at now. In August 2017 I finished my own selected John Coltrane discography of approximately 105 albums which can be filtered by album title, song titles, personnel, etc., and sorted by earliest recording session.

July 2017 Update:

Beginning May 2017, I participated in an exchange of emails with Dr. Porter and Yasuhiro Fujioka (another prodigious Coltrane research, author, collector, and more; Fujioka's blog here: http://blog.livedoor.jp/coltranehouse/ and interview here: YouTube: Chasing Trane - A Conversation with Yasuhiro Fujioka About John Coltrane), and Mr. Fujioka kindly offered additional information on the residences listed below (cited as "Fujioka, 2017, Personal Comm."). The information from Mr. Fujioka has allowed me to update this page with more details about the residences and circumstances outlined. Ultimately, however, these documents contain far more information than I've elected to put on this webpage, including a few more homes than the eight identified here. Some of these places include another home in High Point, NC (213 Price Street), as well as a few hotels and, at least on one occasion, Paul Chamber's apartment (Fujioka, 2017, Personal Comm.).

Additionally, I recently purchased The Coltrane Reference (Amazon.com) by Chris DeVito, Yasuhiro Fujioka, Wolf Schmaler, Dave Wild, and Lewis Porter (ed). This 800+ page monograph is astounding. The Coltrane Reference is not only the most exacting and accurate account of Coltrane's life available, but it is also surely one of the finest examples of jazz research ever published. Any serious student of jazz history and/or research should be familiar with this book; all jazz fans should be grateful for the authors' meticulous research into Coltrane's life and for setting the bar for jazz research as high as Coltrane did for his music.I'm certain that if you enjoy any of the content here, you will enjoy the original works even more.

Click on a book cover to view the Amazon listing:

Where John Coltrane was Born
200 Hamlet Ave, North Carolina (not the original structure/building)

Dates of residence:
September 23, 1926 - late 1926
birth to approx. 2 months of age


Additional Information:

Trane's parents, John Robert (J.R.) Coltrane (b. ca. 1901, d. 1/2/1939) and Alice Coltrane (nee Blair) (b. 3/22/1898, d. 9/1/1977), lived in an apartment at this location around 1925, just above what is now the "Coltrane Blue Room" (Porter, 1998 ,298). Trane's father worked as a tailor for the entirety of his short life, and Trane's mother identified her occupation as "domestic" on John Coltrane's birth certificate. Alice graduated from Livingstone College (a 45 min. drive southwest) in 1925, before moving into the apartment here with J.R. Coltrane. More is known about Trane's mother's family lineage than his father's. However, both Alice and J.R. were from religious families and both of Trane's grandfathers were A.M.E. Zion ministers. Trane's paternal side of the family seemed to have had little to do with Coltrane's upbringing unlike his mother's side.

Documents provided by Yashiro Fujioka, note that this building was preserved by Dr. Fred McQueen. These documents also state that Dr. McQueen mounted the plaque (pictured below) on this building. Additionally, a 1998 photo from Mr. Fujioka shows buildings immediately across Bridges Street, in the area that is now a park (Fujioka, 2017, Personal Comm.). I'm not sure when they were demolished, but knowing this helps paint a more accurate picture than the current google map view. It's also worth noting that Coltrane's paternal grandparents were living nearby, 540 Charlotte Street, in 1920.

For more information on this period of Coltrane's life, see Dr. Porter's biography, John Coltrane: His Life and Music (amazon link). Moreover, Fujioka and The Coltrane Reference alerted me to David Tegnell's thorough article on Coltrane's early years in North Carolina, "Hamlet: John Coltrane's Origins" in Jazz Perspective, November 2007, pp. 167-215, which is also worth reading for a more detailed picture of the years preceding Coltrane's birth (and includes a picture of the original building at this location on page 201). I also stumbled upon this "Tour Diary" from a band called "il songo del mariano" that features some stories about visiting this location in 2014. Read it here: http://www.hootpage.com/hoot_ilsognodelmarinaio-cantosecondotour2014diary.html.

Coltrane's Blue Room

If you click along Bridges street on the Google map above you will see this sign on the side of the building. Coltrane's Blue Room now serves as a party room (Porter, 1998 ,298).

Where Coltrane spent his early childhood
105 Price Street, High Point, NC

Dates of residence:
circa 1929 - circa. 1932

approx. 2 months - approx 11 years old


Additional Information:

Note: Before moving here, the Coltrane family lived at another home nearby on 213 Price Street from about 1927-1929 (Fujioka).


Coltrane and his parents moved to High Point, NC, about two months after his birth. Trane's maternal grandfather was the leader of the St. Stephen AME Zion Church on Price Street. Today, the St. Stephen A.M.E. Zion church is on Leonard Street, and can be seen by clicking along Price Street and turning left; the church will be on the right side of the street, across from what is now the police station, but it was previously the elementary school that Trane attended.

Reverend Blair (Trane's maternal grandfather) was also involved in the creation of Leonard Elementary School (pictured below), a school for the black children of High Point, NC. Porter notes that Coltrane probably began school here in September 1932 (Porter, 1998, 15). Part of this school now houses the High Point Police Department which is directly behind the inital view of the Google map above (High Point Museum: http://highpointnc.pastperfectonline.com/bysearchterm?keyword=Leonard+Street+School).


Leonard Street (Elementary) School

Coltrane's maternal grandfather, Rev. Blair. was involved in the creation of this building. Part of it still stands as part of the High Point Police department. Read more in the High Point Museum online exhibit (link below, "Read More"). Read More.
July 2017 update:

David Tegnell's article, "Hamlet: John Coltrane's Origins" in Jazz Perspective (November 2007, pp. 167-215), notes on page 204 that this exact photo shows not only Leonard Street School (the elementary school Coltrane attended), but also the "St. Stephen A.M.E. Zion Church (built in 1928) and the house at 213 Price St., John Coltrane's first home in High Point." Further, Tegnell notes on (pp. 205 - 206) that John Coltrane's father, J.R. Coltrane, was an amateur musician who was well-liked. However, J.R. Coltrane, as mentioned above, does not appear to have been as integral a part of the Coltrane family. That role belonged to Coltrane's maternal grandfather (Porter, 1998, 11; Tegnell, 2007, 206).

Coltrane's life changed dramatically while living here
118 Underhill Street, High Point, NC

Dates of residence:
Circa. 1937 - circa May, 1943
approx. 11 - 16 years old


Additional Information:

Reverend Blair (Coltrane's maternal grandfather) built this house -- see this Zillow listing that notes the 1922 construction date. The Coltranes moved here from the house shown above on Price Street.

Family Deaths

But during this seventh-grade school year of 1938 and 1939, Coltrane's family suffered a series of deaths that were to have disastrous consequences.
Lewis Porter in John Coltrane: His Life and Music, 1998, page 15.

These deaths included his grandfather Blair in 1938 (the "dominant cat in the family," as Coltrane put it [Porter, 1998, 11]), his Aunt Effie (maternal side), also in 1938, his maternal grandmother in 1939, and also his father in 1939 (Porter, 1998, 16). Coltrane started high school in the middle of all this, in September 1939. Soon, Coltrane's mother and his cousin Mary moved away. Coltrane spent the rest of his time in High Point living alone in this house with boarders (Porter, 1998, 20). A year later in 1940, the head of house in the home in which Coltrane was boarding passed away as well (Porter, 1998, 18).

It was just at this time that he began to take up music, playing first the alto horn, then the clarinet, and from the beginning he is said to have practiced continuously, obsessively, as if practicing would bring his father back, or maybe help him to forget his father -- as if, by succeeding in music, he could restore stability and control to his life. Perhaps, in a sense, music became his father substitute. And through music, he could both express and relieve this pain he felt about his father's death, a pain that never seems to have allowed himself to fully explore.

"For a while," observed his high school friend David Young, "I don't think he had anything but that horn."
Lewis Porter in John Coltrane: His Life and Music, 1998, page 17.

July 2017 Update: The aforementioned documents provided by Yashiro Fujioka seem to indicate that as of 2006 the city of High Point, NC purchased this property and that it may soon become a historic landmark, however, it appears as though it is still occupied by the current tenant.

Where Coltrane Became a Professional Musician
1450 North 12th Street, Philadelphia

Dates of Residence
circa May, 1943 - March, 1952
16 - 25 years old


Additional Information:

Coltrane moved in with his mother in Philadelphia after graduating high school in 1943. Franklin Brower, Coltrane's friend, helped Coltrane and his mom find an apartment at this address, 1450 North 12th Street (Porter, 1998, 21). Coltrane lived here with his mom, his friend James Kinzer, his cousin Mary, and her mother, Bettie, on the second floor (of a previous building). Soon, Mary and Bettie moved into the apartment below, and they shared the two floors with the Coltranes. Trane never returned to High Point, NC, save one time soon after the move to Philadelphia.

[High Point, NC] was, after all, the place where he lost all the men in his life as well as his grandmothers, when he was at attender age.
Lewis Porter, John Coltrane: His Life and Music, 1998, page 22.

Musically

The move to Philadelphia proved critical to Trane's impending success. Philadelphia's music community in the 40s and 50s was home to many influential jazz musicians. Here, Trane met Benny Golson, who lived nearby on Pace Street, and togehter they would attend the after-hours jam sessions at the Woodbine Club at 12th and Masters, where legends such as Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, and others played. Coltrane began taking his first gigs while living here (Porter, 1998, 36).

Non-musical employment during his 20s

During this time Coltrane was working at a sugar refinery (Porter, 1998, 22). Before this he worked as a soda jerk (Porter, 1998, 21), shoe shiner (Porter, 1998, 19), and later at a Campbell's Soup factory in nearby Camden (Porter, 1998, 23 and 37).



North 12th Street, September 1957

Coltrane's apartment is seen here on the right-hand side, according to HiddenCityPhila.

On Coltrane's service with the Navy: August 6, 1945 - August 11, 1946

Coltrane was inducted into the U.S. Navy just over a month before his 20th birthday, on Monday, August 6, 1945. This was late into WWII (and happened to be the same day of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima [wiki]). He was discharged about one year later, on August 11, 1946.

During his tenure with the Navy, Coltrane was stationed in upstate New York for a few months, but was otherwise stationed at the Island of Oahu, Hawaii by November 28, 1945 (Fujioka, 2012, english translation PDF, 2, URL). In the Navy, Coltrane was a member of a pickup band (Note: NOT a U.S. "Navy Band") known as "The Melody Masters" which played various gigs around the island (The Coltrane Reference, paperback ed.: DeVito, et. al, 2013, 12).

It was in the Navy, in Hawaii, that Coltrane made his earliest confirmed recordings (DeVito, et. al, 2012, 10). The Coltrane Reference, page 367, notes that this recording session occurred on July 13, 1946 at the Armed Forces radio station on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii. The other musicians were Navy men, Dexter Culbertson (tp), Norman Poulshock (p), Willie Stader (b), Joe Theimer (dr), and Benny Thomas (voc).

Porter's biography features an engaging read on his time in the Navy and how it impacted Coltrane's musical development. Porter includes transcriptions analysis of two Coltrane solos from the recordings from this session. These early recordings are now available for purchase on this Rare Live Recordings release, First giant steps (Amazon.com link):

Coltrane Met Miles and Naima When Living Here
1511 North 33rd Street, Philadelphia, PA

Dates of Residence:
July 24, 1952 - August 23, 1957
25 - 31 years old

Additional Information:

During Trane's Life:

Trane purchased this house in Philly's Strawberry Mansion neighborhood on July 24, 1952, when he was 25 years old with the help of his G.I. Bill (Fujokia, 2017, Personal Comm.). Until this time, Coltrane, Mary, and their mothers Alice (Trane's mother) and Bettie (Mary's mother) and his friend James Kinzer were still living in the two apartments on North Twelfth street (above).

John W. Coltrane (1926 -1927)
A pioneering African-American jazz musician, composer, saxophonist. Coltrane used African and Indian elements to create a distinct style which at first shocked audiences but ultimately gained wide acceptance. He lived here, 1952 - 1958.
Plaque outside this home.

Aisha Davis (who would marry McCory Tyner) lived nearby on Van Pelt near Twenty First Street. Aisha's sister, Rosemary (Khadijah) Davis, a singer, married Steve Davis, the bass player one My Favorite Things. Khadijah and Steve Davis, as well as Coltrane, held jam sessions at the respective houses. Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker (!!), Sonny Rollins, and others were also known to have attended, as well as, Khadijah's friend, Naima (Porter, 1998, 96).

Naima and her daughter lived at 1816 North Seventh Street when she met Coltrane (Porter, 1998, 96). They got married during Coltrane's first week with Miles Davis on Monday, October 3rd, 1955 in Baltimore. Naima had a daughter from a previous relationship, Antonia, (also known as Saeeda, of "Saeeda Song Flute" [Giant Steps] fame) born on November 10, 1949 (Fujioka, 2017, Personal Comm.). Once married, Saeeda and Niama moved in with Coltrane at this thirty-third street house with Mary and Alice when Trane was on tour with Miles.

Today:

This house is now a historical landmark, once owned by Cousin Mary, but it has unfortunately fallen into disrepair in recent years. The Library of Congress website hosts pictures of this house, including photos of the inside, from the early 2000s when it was a museum and functioned as the "John Coltrane Cultural Society." One of these pictures is shown below. View the Wikipedia page for this house.

Photo of the marker

Inside the house

From the The Library of Congress collection click to view more.

Photo by Yasuhiro Fujioka
See more on his blog.

Note (July, 2017):

I highly recommend exploring Yasuhiro Fujioka's blog and pictures found here: http://blog.livedoor.jp/coltranehouse/archives/2012-10.html. Published in October 2010, Fujioka has provided incredible photos of the inside of Coltrane's Philadelphia and Long Island homes, along with brief commentary. Shown here is one of Fujioka's photos that show a second floor room of this house, the room in which Trane experienced a "spiritual awakening" while living here.

For more, check out his book, Coltrane Chronicle" (Amazon.com) or here (diskunion.net). It's in Japanese, but English translation of the photo captions is here: http://diskunion.net/dubooks/st/pdf/DUBcoltrane.pdf.

Apt 2B, 203 West 103rd St., New York City, NY

Dates of Residence:
August 23, 1957 - December 22, 1959
31 - 33 years old

Additional Information:

Coltrane, Naima, and Saeeda moved here around August 23, 1957, a couple months after he recorded his first album as a leader, Coltrane/Prestige, on May 31, 1957 (Porter, 1998, pp. 106-107). Before living here, Coltrane briefly lived at the Alvin Hotel near Fifty-second Street and Broadway to prepare for the recording (Porter, 1998, 106).

July 2017 update: Fujioka notes, via Antonia Andrews, a.k.a. Syeeda, that Coltrane (and maybe Naima, and Syeeda?) also temporarily stayed at Paul and Annie Chmabers Apartment, and the Marie Antoinette Hotel during 1957 (Fujioka, 2017, Personal Comm.).

Marriage problems between Naima and Trane arose in 1958 while living here. Consult Porter's biography, pages 269 - 272, for more on this.

116-60 Mexico Street, St. Albans, Queens, New York

Dates of Residence:
December 23, 1959 - Summer 1963

Roughly 33 -- 36 years old

Additional Information:

In the documents provided by Fujioka, it was noted that the famous photo above of Coltrane and Eric Dolphy was taken at this house. Fujioka notes that this photo was taken by Naima Coltrane ca. Spring 1960.

Trane, Naima, and Syeeda moved into this house on December 23, 1959. Fujioka notes that Coltrane was purchased this home with an advance from Atlantic records (Fujioka, 2017, Personal Comm.).

Slide Hampton lived nearby at 245 Carlton Avenue in Brooklyn (Porter, 1998, 140). Porter notes that it was a "huge brownstone" that Hampton rented out. Hampton's other tenants included Freddie Hubbard, Wes Montgomery, Larry Ridey, Eric Dolphy, and the painter Prophet (Prohet created cover art on some of Dolphy's albums). Dolphy has a piece titled "245" dedicated to the house.

Coltrane moved out in the summer of 1963 and was soon living with Alice Coltrane (Porter, 270). Trane also lived at the Schuyler Hotel, 57 West 45th Street, New York, NY, prior to purchasing the Dix Hills home below (Fujioka, 2017, Personal Comm., and DeVito, et al. 2013, 301). The John Coltrane Reference notes that Coltrane sold this house to Naima for $10 on June 1, 1965 (DeVito, et. al, 2013, 323). Coltrane divorced Naima and married Alice on the same day, June 1, 1965, in Juarez, Mexico in August 1966. (DeVito, et. al, 2013, 323, and Porter, 1998, 272)

Steve Reid talks about visiting Coltrane at this home in this 2007 article (AllAboutJazz.com) by Ian Patterson .


243 Candlewood Path, Dix Hills, Huntington, Long Island, New York

July 6, 1964 - July 17, 1967
37 - 40 years old

Additional Information:

During Trane's Life

Sign outside of home

Trane, Alice, and Alice's daughter Michelle (from Alice's previous marriage) moved here on July 6, 1964.

This is the home in which Coltrane composed the music for A Love Supreme. In an interview on KCRW, John Scheinfled, the director of the 2017 documentary Chasing Trane, noted that Alice Coltrane said when Trane finished composing the music for A Love Supreme he walked down the stairs from his music room on the second floor as though he was "Moses coming down from the Mountain" (KCRW, 2017; listen to the interview here: https://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/tom-schnabels-rhythm-planet/chasing-trane). You can see this room in one of Fujioka's photos on his blog here: http://blog.livedoor.jp/coltranehouse/archives/2012-10.html

Each of Trane's children with Alice were born here: John W. Coltrane Jr. (Aug. 26, 1964 - 1982), Ravi John Coltrane (b. August 06, 1965), and Oranyan (Oran) Olabisi Coltrane (b. March 19, 1967). Coltrane died on July 17, 1967. Alice, Michelle, John Jr., Ravi, and Oran continued to lived here for aother five years after Trane's passing.

Today:

The house was purchased in 2004 by the Huntington Society to save it from demolition, an effort spearheaded by Steve Fulgoni in the early 2000s (read about here: https://www.thecoltranehome.org/test-page/). Recently, this home has been the subject of a massive effort by many people in order to preserve it and provide community outreach. The "Coltrane Home" is now a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization. Read about the Coltrane Home at their website (https://www.thecoltranehome.org/) and like their (Facebook page).

I created and animated this YouTube video during the 2015 summer. It combines the prose of Coltrane's poem A Love Supreme with the recording of "Psalm."

Bibliography

Armstrong, Rob. "There Was No End To The Music," Hidden City Philadelphia. 2013. Accessed July 2017. http://hiddencityphila.org/2013/02/there-was-no-end-to-the-music/

DeVito, Chris, Yasuhiro Fujioka, Wold Schmaler, and David Wild. The John Coltrane Reference. Lewis Porter (ed.). New York, NY: Routledge, 2013.

DeVito, Chris (ed.). Coltrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane Interviews. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2012.

Fujioka, Yasuhiro. Coltrane Chronicle. Tokyo, Japan: Disk Union, 2012.

Fujioka, Yasuhiro. Coltrane House Blog, http://blog.livedoor.jp/coltranehouse/

Fujioka, Yasuhiro. Personal Communication (email), 2017.

Fulgoni, Steve. "How It Started." The Coltrane Home, https://www.thecoltranehome.org/test-page/. Accessed July 2017

"John Coltrane House, 1511 North Thirty-third Street, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA." Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/pa3863/. Accessed July 2017.

Kahn, Ashley. A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.

"Melzetta Williams: A Teacher's Recollections." High Point Museum. https://spa2dmz.highpointnc.gov/MUSEUM/Exhibits/MelzettaWilliams/21C7F817-8BBE-4B01-8843-772350343050.htm. Accessed July 2017.

Porter, Lewis. John Coltrane: His Life and Music. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Patterson, Ian. "Steve Reid Staying in the Rhythms." All About Jazz. December 24, 2007. www.allaboutjazz.com/steve-reid-staying-in-the-rhythms-steve-reid-by-ian-patterson.php?page=1

"Chasing Trane (KCRW radio interview with 2017 Chasin Tane director John Scheinfeld)." "Tom Schnabel's Rhythm Planet."KCRW.Com. April 21, 2017. Accessed July 2017. https://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/tom-schnabels-rhythm-planet/chasing-trane

Wild, Dave. "The John Coltrane Reference Updates Index." Wild Music Jazz, http://www.wildmusic-jazz.com/jcr_index.htm