Sun Ra House, the three-story Philadelphia building that has been a cradle for Sun Ra’s evolving Arkestra outfit since the 1960s, has been listed as a historic landmark in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The building at 5626 Morton Street, also known as the Arkestral Institute of Sun Ra, reportedly still houses a number of Arkestra members, including current bandleader Marshall Allen. Allen had lived in the house since 1968. In 2021, he reported that the building had partially collapsed. On May 13, the Philadelphia Historical Commission unanimously voted to grant the protected status, a representative for the register said.
As a result of the designation, the Historical Commission will ensure any adjustments to the building meet historic preservation standards, as well as advising on its restoration and maintenance. The designation came about with help from the Robert Bielecki Foundation, a philanthropist organization devoted to artists. Check out the Historical Commission’s proposal for the nomination.
Sun Ra returned to the astral plane in 1993, but his Arkestra continued to tour and record until the turn of the millennium, when it pared back to become a looser touring outfit. Sun Ra Arkestra regrouped in 2020 for Swirling—its first album in decades—which was nominated for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album award at the 2022 Grammys. After contributing to Swirling, the Arkestra’s longtime baritone sax player and manager Danny Ray Thompsondied in 2020 at age 72; bassist Juini Booth died the following year.