A shotgun house that legendary jazz cornetist Buddy Bolden once called home has been seized by the government of New Orleans and could be sold at public auction.
Bolden, an early 20th-century jazz pioneer, lived in the mundane, dilapidated apartment building in Central City near First Street and Simon Bolivar Avenue. The deteriorating house, at 2309-2311 First, and a similar house next door, at 2305-2307, have stood vacant for years and are in dire need of maintenance, despite promises to restore the Bolden home for posterity.
On October 25, notices were posted on both properties announcing that New Orleans had seized their structures and would sell them on February 16.
“This is a derelict building that has been fined for violating the property’s minimum maintenance code,” said Gregory Joseph, a spokesman for Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration. “These fines have not been paid, so they are being sold to the public.”
The condition of the homes, which are over 100 years old, were also “found in violation of the city’s historic preservation laws,” Joseph said.
Greater St. Stephen Ministries, a branch of a popular church that once stood near the Bolden house, owned the properties.
In March 2019, the town hall cited the church for allowing the houses to become so dilapidated that they were in danger of being demolished through neglect. At the time, a church representative said Greater St. Stephen Ministries leadership had ‘no idea Bolden grew up there’ when it acquired the properties, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The St. Stephen’s Church building was severely damaged by fire in 2008 and has since been demolished, although ministry continues in New Orleans East.
After the 2019 quote, New Orleans-born R&B star PJ Morton, son of Greater St. Stephen’s Bishop Paul Morton, stepped in with a plan to renovate the property into a museum and studio. community registration. He announced the creation of a non-profit organization called Buddy’s House Foundation to manage the project.
Some minor maintenance work took place over the next few months, but in November 2019 City Hall flagged it again for several code violations and officials threatened to fine owners $100 per day until the issues are resolved. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, no obvious improvement has taken place.
The Preservation Resource Center, a New Orleans nonprofit dedicated to preserving historic architecture, consulted PJ Morton on restoring the Bolden House. But for the moment, the project has not started.
“The PRC has advised Morton on historic preservation best practices, bringing in construction experts to tour the building and providing information on possible funding mechanisms available for historic renovations,” said executive director Danielle Del. Floor. “Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the PRC, the owners of this historic treasure have allowed it to deteriorate, not only risking the loss of this building, but also contributing to the decay of this historic area.
Joseph said City Hall is aware that Morton has expressed an interest in the property. He added: “We have issued certificates of adequacy in the past, but no progress has been made to restore it.”
“Anyway,” Joseph continued, “sheriff’s sales are public auctions, and so if Morton is interested in this property, he can bid on it in February. These auctions can sometimes be a great way to acquire a property at lower cost.
Before the auction, the church can pay off outstanding debts and recover the property.
A recent tour of the properties showed a few fallen clapboards, a creeping cat’s claw vine, a scribble of graffiti and debris strewn around the boarding houses. Extensive resurfacing is underway on First Street.
In a way, the uncertain fate of the Bolden house suits the musician’s uncertain history. Although “King” Bolden was certainly a Crescent City star whose fiery style inspired a generation of early jazz musicians, one can only imagine the sound of his playing, as no recordings exist to our date. knowledge. Only one or two photos of Bolden have been found.
His career essentially ended when he was in his thirties, institutionalized with what could have been mental illness. He was buried in Holt Cemetery in New Orleans, but the exact location of his grave is unknown.
Officials from Greater St. Stephen’s Ministries and PJ Morton, who is touring England, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the story.