A rundown row house in the impoverished Mantua section of Philadelphia had a colorful, centurylong record of occupancy before its last longtime residents died and it became a symbol of urban blight. Now, the boarded-up structure is getting quite the send-off. Hymns and eulogies will mark the last moments of the Melon Street residence before it's knocked down Saturday. A hearse-like dumpster will carry the debris down the block, trailed by a procession of drill teams, bands, and local residents. A community meal will follow.
Organizers randomly chose the building for a cultural project called "Funeral for a Home," which aims to honor neighborhood history in a city where officials say about 600 houses are torn down each year and 25,000 others sit vacant. It's a symbolic gesture that could also resonate in places like St. Louis, Buffalo, and Detroit—other cities whose once vibrant landscapes have been transformed by abandoned eyesores, says Robert Blackson, an administrator at Temple University's Tyler School of Art, who came up with the idea. "When you see these blighted homes, you forget that they were a thriving part of the community at one point," he says. The developer that purchased the house for $15,000 in 2012—and gave permission for the funeral and demolition—plans to build affordable housing on the site.