The birthplace and former home of Aretha Franklin, 406 Lucy Ave. in the south of Memphis. Hundreds of people have placed flowers and posters, or have a short written explanation, in honor of the music icon.
MEMPHIS, Tennessee. – Aretha Franklin was called the Queen of Soul, but long before she made her mark on the music industry, she was making her way in Memphis.
Located in the south of Memphis in 406 Lucy Ave., the 400-square-meter house, where Franklin was born, has become dilapidated, with boarded-up windows. After the legendary singer died, there is a renewed effort and a struggle to the preservation of the house.
Vera Lee House, the current owner, says members of the community want the building restored. House says there is talk of moving the building closer to Soulsville, which is a renovated area in the south of Memphis. The house is unlivable for more than a decade, and discussions about what to do with the goods are on the increase.
Franklin was born in the house on March 25, 1942, but her family moved out of the area about two years later.
“I turned it on for the receiver so could I hold it here, not [anywhere] else. When I found out she wanted to move, I’ve really been against it, because it’s not just Aretha’s house, it’s my home,” House told Fox News.
“I raised my children in this house. I live in this neighborhood. I don’t want everything I’ve worked before it’s too late.”
House said the taxes, which total just over $ 1,200, will be paid soon after a hearing to determine the fate of the house is held this week. The session was scheduled before Franklin’s death.
Speaking of Franklin, House told Fox News about a meeting she had with the Queen of Soul when she visited the house in 1995.
“She stayed a pretty good while that day, and she talked and walked through the house and told me that the things that [happened] with her family here,” House said. “They talked about the trees there are, how her sisters and brothers used to climb the tree and play.”
A judge ordered the house to be demolished two years ago; an alternative plan for the building called for the property to be placed under the rule of a local community corporation to develop plans to maintain it because of its historical significance.
Jeffrey Higgs, executive director of the South Memphis Renewal CDC, says that there have been no decisions made about the way in which the preservation will go. Higgs did note that he once took a call from Franklin himself, and she told him that she would like to see the house preserved.
A steady stream of people continue to stop by Arentha Franklin’s birthplace in the south-Memphis to think of the legendary Queen of Soul.
“Everybody Is looking at what’s going to happen,” Higgs said. “There are a variety of interests [and] people who want to see different things happen in the house. And so our efforts have always been to restore the house and ensure that its interests are protected as the owner of the house. … We are not the owner of the house, we are just the judge-commissioner.”
Higgs says it costs about $200,000 to restore the property, and that it would take up to tens of millions of dollars for the improvement of the surrounding neighborhood. He also mentioned that if the recipient of the property, his company would probably end up paying the taxes owed on the site.
“We bring everyone together and do what is best for the community, for Lucy [Avenue], for the city and globally, because Mrs. Franklin was loved by everyone,” Higgs added.
To help with the costs associated with the maintenance and the restoration of Franklin’s former home, a GoFundMe campaign was started by local music-industry executive Gebre Waddel, CEO of Soundways.
“A symbol as powerful as a home is something that impacts on the near and the influence of the city on a very deep level,” Waddell said. “If you think about Memphis, you think about Graceland perhaps, the home of Elvis Presley. And with Aretha Franklin) and the level of the legend that we talk about here, the degree of influence that they had, we also need the preservation of her house.”
What happens with the Queen of Soul, is the first house, the community wants to be sure of Franklin’s legacy lives on. Vera Lee House children have even floated the idea of the name of the street Aretha Franklin. Her house and her family hope that the city of Memphis will step in and help with the restoration efforts.
“I am sure that we are doing something for this,” House said. “They can say that nothing can be done, but I think we should come together.”
House, Higgs and the city have until Oct. 16 to come up with a plan to preserve the building, as per court orders. Higgs told Fox News a meeting for the following steps would take place after Franklin’s memorial service, which is scheduled for Friday. A vigil in honor of the singer will be held at her former south Memphis home on the same day.
Willie James Inman, is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Jackson, Mississippi. Follow him on twitter: @WillieJames