• Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.
      Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.

Marian Anderson Historical Society opens its doors for MLK Day of Service

The Marian Anderson Historical Society opened the doors to famed contralto Marian Anderson's home yesterday. The open house and senior citizen luncheon honored the memories of Dr. Martin Luther King and Anderson while also giving special recognition to seniors. 

Anderson, one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century, grew up attending and singing at the nearby Union Baptist Church at Fitzwater and Martin streets. She purchased the home at 762 S. Martin Street for $4,000 in 1924 after a European tour, and today it is a time capsule of sorts that preserves Anderson's legacy. 

As a famous African American female singer in the twentieth century, Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists in the face of racial oppression. Monday's event celebrated both Anderson's voice and her legacy. 

Volunteers served senior citizen guests a tribute lunch while members of the historical society told stories of Anderson's life. Lady Blancheburton Lyles, the first African American female pianist to play at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic, and Jillian Patricia Pirtle, one of just 16 Marian Anderson scholars, performed for a captivated audience. 

"There's nothing better than being able to take the opportunity to give back on MLK Day in the spirit of Marian Anderson," Pirtle said. 

She said the idea was to give back to and to treat the seniors citizens who were alive in Anderson's era. And there is no better place to do so, she said, than Anderson's own home. 

"You can feel her spirit here," she said. 

The Marian Anderson Historical Society operates The Marian Anderson Residence Museum and works ceaselessly to promote the late classical singer. Through its Anderson scholars program, the society supports young classical and opera singers from around the world. Museum tours are available 10am - 4pm, Monday through Saturday. 

    • Lady Blancheburton Lyles, left, and Jillian Patricia Pirtle, right, perform some of Anderson's music
      Lady Blancheburton Lyles, left, and Jillian Patricia Pirtle, right, perform some of Anderson's music
    • Guests sit beneath a portrait of Anderson painted in 1929
      Guests sit beneath a portrait of Anderson painted in 1929
    • The event honored senior citizens by treating them to lunch and stories of Anderson's success
      The event honored senior citizens by treating them to lunch and stories of Anderson's success
    • Jillian Patricia Pirtle is one of just 16 Marian Anderson scholars
      Jillian Patricia Pirtle is one of just 16 Marian Anderson scholars
    • Pirtle stepped forward to thank a guest
      Pirtle stepped forward to thank a guest
    • Photos, plaques and certificates line the wall of Anderson's home, now the Marian Anderson Residence Museum
      Photos, plaques and certificates line the wall of Anderson's home, now the Marian Anderson Residence Museum
    • Anderson purchased the small, two-story row home for $4,000 in 1924 after touring in Europe
      Anderson purchased the small, two-story row home for $4,000 in 1924 after touring in Europe
    • Some of the rooms are preserved in the style Anderson kept them
      Some of the rooms are preserved in the style Anderson kept them
    • Glass cases display an assortment of Anderson's jewelry and accessories
      Glass cases display an assortment of Anderson's jewelry and accessories
    • A few of the dresses Anderson performed in are also on display
      A few of the dresses Anderson performed in are also on display
    • The modest, two-story home blends in with the other homes on the block
      The modest, two-story home blends in with the other homes on the block
    • The Marian Anderson Residence Museum is just around the corner from Union Baptist Church, where she performed as a child
      The Marian Anderson Residence Museum is just around the corner from Union Baptist Church, where she performed as a child
    • The Marian Anderson Residence Museum is just around the corner from Union Baptist Church, where she began her singing career
      The Marian Anderson Residence Museum is just around the corner from Union Baptist Church, where she began her singing career
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About the author

Christine Fisher, Transportation reporter

From 2012-2014 Christine covered transportation, writing about everything from pedestrian concerns to bicycle infrastructure, bridges, trail networks, public transit and more. Her favorite assignments sent her bushwhacking through Philadelphia’s yet-to-be-cleared bike trails, catching a glimpse of SEPTA’s inner workings or pounding the pavement to find out what pedestrians really think. Christine also covered community news for Eyes on the Street, where her work ranged from food sovereignty to public art and urban greening. She first joined PlanPhilly in fall 2011 as an intern through a partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods website. 


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