Mapping Coltrane's Life

A street-view timeline of John Coltrane's residences
Return to projects homepage or www.RamseyCastaneda.com

Introduction

The creation of this webpage was inspired by the incredible research presented in Dr. Lewis Porter's book, John Coltrane: His Life and Music (Amazon.com link). I first read it for a class I took at the University of Southern California in fall 2014 entitled "Teaching Jazz History," taught by Dr. Thom Mason. In this class, Dr. Mason assigned the studnets to review a jazz biography, and I chose Dr. Porter's Coltrane biography, a book I had been wanting to read for years. I was enthralled from 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.

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 was kindly offered additional information on the homes listed below. The documents provided by Mr. Fujioka have allowed me to update this page with more information about the homes and circumstances detailed below. Ultimately, however, these documents, as well as associated books, contain far more information than I've elected to publish here. Coltrane lived in a few more places than the 8 below, but none for a significant period of time. Some of these places include another home in High Point, NC, as well as a few hotels and, at least on one occasion, Paul Chamber's apartment (Fujioka, private document). Below, you will find additional resources by the original researchers that provide further tantilating details about Coltrane's life.

Also, I recently (July, 2017) purchased the truly phenomenal The Coltrane Reference, by Chris DeVito, Yasuhiro Fujioka, Wolf Schmaler, Dave Wild, and Lewis Porter (ed). This 800+ page book is nothing short of astounding. The Coltrane Reference is not only the most exacting and accurate account of Coltrane's life, but is also surely one of the finest examples of jazz research, ever. 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 muisc.

When I began this project, I was quite ignorant of the amount of serious research that has been devoted to this topic. So, out of respect to the original authors/researchers, please keep in mind that everything below, unless cited otherwise, is derived directly from the works of Dr. Lewis Porter, Yasuhiro Fujioka, and the other authors of The Coltrane Reference. Besides organizing my own notes from reading their works, and a few rogue google searches, everything below stems from their assiduous and original research.

If you enjoy any of the content on this page then I'm positive you will enjoy the original works even more. Each of these books contributed in some form or another to the content presented here.


Click on a book cover to view the amazon listing:

Where John Coltrane was Born
200 Hamlet Ave, North Carolina

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


Additional Information:

Coltrane was born on the second floor of a previous building at this corner, at 200 Hamlet Ave, North Carolina. 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), moved into the former apartment at this location in about 1925. They soon moved to High Point, North Carolina a couple months after Trane's birth. Trane's father seemed to have worked as a tailor for the entirety of his short life. During this time Trane's mother, Alice, was a homemaker. 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 when compared with his mother's side of the family.

Documents provided by Yashiro Fujioka in June, 2017 note that this building was preserved by one Dr. Fred McQueen. (A brief google search for "Dr. Fred McQueen, North Carolina" indicates that Dr. McQueen is/was a medical doctor in Hamlet, NC.) 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. 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 woth noting that Coltrane's paternal parents were living nearby, 540 Charlotte Street, in 1920 (Google Maps link).

For more information on this period of Coltrane's life, see Dr. Porters biography, John Coltrane: His Life and Music (amazon link). Additionally, 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.

Coltrane's Blue Room

If you click down the street you will see this sign. Coltrane's Blue Room is apparently a party room.

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 St. from about 1927-1929 (Fujioka). See "update" below.


Coltrane and his parents moved to High Point, NC, shortly after he was born. 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 it can be seen by clicking down Price Street and turning left; the church will be on the right side of the street, across from the police station (see paragraph below).

Reverend Blair (Trane's maternal grandfather) was also involved in the creation of Leonard Elementary School (pictured immediately 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 starting view of this map (High Point, NC 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 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 Chirch (built in 1928) and the house at 213 Price St., John Coltrane's first home in High Point." Further, Tegnell notes on pages 205 - 206 that John Coltrane's father, J.R. Coltrane, was an amature 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 belonging 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 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, too, 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 past 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.

Update (July, 2017): The aforementioned documents provided by Yashiro Fujioka in June, 2017 seem to indicate that as of 2006, the city of High Point, NC, has 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. Also, a photo dated April 6, 2006 by Fujioka, shows this home to appear in quite similar to the current Google street view.

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:

After graduating high school in 1943, Coltrane moved in with his mother in Philadelphia. A friend, Franklin Brower, helped Coltrane 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. 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). Trane never returned to High Point, NC, save one time soon after the move to Philadelphia.

It 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.

The move to Philadelphia turned out to be musically important. Philadelphia had a particularly rich musical culture and proved to be the perfect incubator for Coltrane's formative relationships. 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.

Historical photo from about the same location

Coltrane's apartment, if pictured, would be on the right side.

Thanks to HiddenCityPhila for the photo.

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. Until this time, he, 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 had a sister, Rosemary (Khadijah) Davis, who married Steve Davis. 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 on Monday, October 3rd, 1955 in Baltimore, during Coltrane's first week with Miles Davis. Naima had a daughter from a previous relationship, Antonia, (also known as Saeeda, of Saeeda Song Flute [Giant Steps] fame) born in late 1949 or early 1950. Once married, Saeeda and Niama moved in with Coltrane at the thirty-third street house with Mary and Alice when Trane was on tour with Miles.

Today:

This house is now a historical landmark, and was owned by his Cousin Mary, but 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 the house 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.

These are astounding photos -- thank you Fuji!! 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 also the Marie Antoinette Hotel during 1957.

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 in documents provided to me that Coltrane was purchased this home with an advance from Atlantic records.

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 (cover art of some of Dolphy's albums). Dolphy has a piece titled "245" dedicated to the house.

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

Coltrane moved out in the summer of 1963 and was soon living with Alice Coltrane (Porter, 270). Trane also temporarily lived at the Schuyler Hotel, 57 West 45th Street, New York, NY, before purchasing the Dix Hills home (below) (Fujioka). 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)


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

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

Additional Information:

Sign outside of home

Trane, Alice, and Alice's daughter Michelle (from Alice's previous marriage) moved here on July 6, 1964. However, Fujioka has noted that Trane temporarily stayed at the Schuyler Hotel (57 West 45th Street, New York, NY) prior to purchasing this house (note the previous paragraph regarding ). All of Trane's children with Alice were born while living 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). John Coltrane would compose "A Love Supreme" in this come. 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.

The House was purchased in 2004 by the Huntington Society to save it from demolition, an effort spear headed 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."

References:

Porter, Lewis. John coltrane: His Life and Music. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Devito, Fujioka, Schmaler, Wilder, Porter (ed.). The John Coltrane Reference. New York, NY: Routledge, 2013.
Fujioka, Yasuhiro. Coltrane Chronicle. Tokyo, Japan: Disk Union, 2012.
Fujioka, Yasuhiro. Private documents.
Devito, Chris (ed.). Coltrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane Interviews. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2012.
Kahn, Ashley. A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.
Wild, Dave. "The John Coltrane Reference Updates Index." Wild Muisc Jazz, http://www.wildmusic-jazz.com/jcr_index.htm
Yasuhiro, Fujioka. Coltrane House Blog, http://blog.livedoor.jp/coltranehouse/
Patterson, Ian. "Steve Reid Staying in the Rhythms." All About Jazz, www.allaboutjazz.com/steve-reid-staying-in-the-rhythms-steve-reid-by-ian-patterson.php?page=1. December 24, 2007.
High Point Museum., https://www.highpointnc.gov/694/Museum/.



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