City money to rehab Marian Anderson Museum

The Marian Anderson Museum received a quarter of a million dollars to help repair the iconic singer’s home on South Martin Street.

Anderson’s home in South Philly’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood suffered flood damage in 2020 when a pipe burst and flooded the basement. It also had a partial roof collapse due to heavy rains more recently. The museum has been closed the last two years due to COVID-19 and while renovations take place.

On Dec. 14, City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson was joined by the leadership of the Marian Anderson Historical Residence and Museum to present a check for $250,000 to help the nonprofit with operating expenses and to complete renovations to the facility.

It follows $105,000 worth of funding secured by Johnson.

“The late Marian Anderson is one of the most famous Philadelphians in history and played a pivotal role in American history during the civil rights movement and throughout her life,” Johnson said. “The Marian Anderson Museum is an important cultural institution in Philadelphia. The Museum has been closed to the public since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other events. I have been working with the Marian Anderson Museum leadership to find money from any source possible to help fix the museum and open it back up to the public as soon as possible. This latest amount of $250,000 as part of the City’s Mid-Year Transfer Ordinance for this Fiscal Year’s budget will go a long way to help make the reopening a reality sometime in 2023. I remain committed to finding ways in the long term to help the museum survive and thrive for years to come.”

Officials say the museum is hopeful to open in April. It is estimated that there was more than $491,000 worth of damage from the flood, which damaged the building’s structure and also ruined some historic artifacts that were collected from Anderson over the years. 

Anderson, a South Philadelphia native, was known for her opera singing as a contralto as well as her work as a civil rights activist.

Anderson notably performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Easter Sunday in 1939 in front of an estimated 75,000 people, which was a pivotal moment in American civil rights history.

She bought the house, and the current location of the museum that was created in her honor at 762 S. Martin St., in 1924 and she owned it until her death in 1993. The museum now hosts rare photos, books, memorabilia and films about her life and is maintained by the Marian Anderson Historical Society. It was declared a historical landmark by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Historical Commission and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.

“Our great Marian Anderson is one of the most important historical figures of the 20th century for her groundbreaking exceptional music artistry and humanitarianism,” Marian Anderson Museum CEO Jillian Patricia Pirtle said. “We have faced a devastating loss due from our flooding disaster. However, we are eternally grateful that our great Councilman Kenyatta Johnson is leading the way in example of support for the Marian Anderson Museum and Historical Society. We are so thankful that he understands that the Marian Anderson Museum must be restored, preserved, lifted up and supported as a national historical landmark and cultural institution for his district, Philadelphia and the nation for our future generations to come.”

For more information on the Marian Anderson Museum and to donate funds, go to