Local groups are raising funds to preserve the childhood home of Henry Ossawa Tanner in Philadelphia, which is in ruins.
Henry Ossawa Tanner is notable as one of the first Black Americans to make a name for himself in the international art scene. Tanner lived at 2908 West Diamond Street in Philadelphia as a teenager. As his career began to rise, he moved out of the country and shifted to Paris. After he moved, the house went to his closest relatives, until some point in the late 20th century when it was abandoned. While it was given the status of National Landmark in 1976, lack of maintenance and repairs led the house to dilapidated conditions.
Now, a Black preservationist group is leading the efforts to restore the house. The Friends of the Henry O. Tanner House is an initiative started by local Philadelphians, led by historian Deborah Gary. Gary is also the president of the Society to Preserve Philadelphia African American Assets. A recent survey of the home revealed it to be a safety hazard. As per convention, such homes should either be repaired or demolished so that they don’t pose a risk to nearby structures.
The group has so far raised $30,000. An estimate suggests that they would need 10x this figure, but the group is confident that they will be able to raise it by June 2023. Henry Ossawa Tanner is an important figure in both Philadelphia culture and the art world, with his works part of the permanent collections of the White House and Philadelphia Museum of Art. However, the house signifies a lot more than Tanner, as his family who lived in it were equally illustrious. Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson, his sister, was the first licensed physician in Alabama. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, his niece, was a civil rights activist.