At its May meeting, the Philadelphia Historical Commission voted to add the Arkestral Institute of Sun Ra, also known as the Sun Ra House, to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The house is located at 5626 Morton Street.

Sun Ra was one of the most influential jazz musicians of the twentieth century. He was also a founder of the Afrofuturism movement, a poet, author, composer, actor, philosopher, and mystic. Sun Ra and some band members, known as the Arkestra, moved into the house in 1968. He lived and rehearsed in the house until his death in 1993. Band members continue to live and play music at the rowhouse today.

Facade of the house at 5626 Morton Street

The front facade of 5626 Morton Street.

In the decades since Sun Ra’s death, his significance has come into clearer focus. Sun Ra was years ahead of all other avant-garde musicians in his experimentation with sound and instruments. He was an outsider who linked the Black experience with ancient Egyptian mythology and outer space. He pioneered group improvisations and the use of electric instruments in jazz.

The property remains in Sun Ra’s name. Marshall Allen, the current leader of the Arkestra, said in a 2014 interview, “this is a very special house not only for the Arkestra but also for American history.”

You can learn more Sun Ra and his connection to Philadelphia in the nomination to designate his former home. The Historical Commission staff prepared the nomination.

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