DIY Network Looks to Save Childhood Home of Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin’s deteriorating childhood home may have found an unlikely savior in cable TV, activists working to preserve the house said Thursday.

The DIY Network, a Knoxville-based, Scripps Networks Interactive-owned cable channel dedicated to programs about do-it-yourself projects, apparently is interested in paying for the restoration and possible relocation of the shotgun house where the future Queen of Soul was born March 25, 1942.

“We’d been talking to them about it for some time, but we had to keep quiet about it until we got something semi-definitive,” said Executive Director Jeffrey Higgs of the LeMoyne-Owen College Community Development Corp., which created the complementary South Memphis Renewal Community Development Corp. to help improve properties relevant to “the culture and music of the neighborhood,” including the long-empty Franklin home.

Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI) stock closed at $81.70 per share Thursday, down less than 1% from the previous day’s trading. Two days ago, it released better-than-forecast fourth-quarter results, rising 7.2% to $81.50.

“If we can get this worked out, then they would pay for the renovation of the house — total — and the move if we decide to move it,” Higgs said after a Thursday hearing in Shelby County Environmental Court, which has been overseeing the effort to preserve the culturally historic property since it was declared a public nuisance in 2012 because of its rotting floors and collapsing roof. “Nobody else has come forward to say that.”

But saving the house would be only the first step in transforming a fixer-upper into a cultural and tourist amenity even though the cable network is really interested, said lawyer Alan Crone, special counsel to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

“What we really need is some sponsoring organization that has the wherewithal to not only maintain it but curate it,” Crone said.

Higgs said he most recently talked to a DIY producer Wednesday night, but said he could not give more information until more details of the plan are confirmed. Network scouts have been to Memphis in the past few months and have visited three sites in the Soulsville neighborhood where the house might be moved.

The W.C. Handy home on Beale Street provides a precedent. The small house where the Father of the Blues lived after he moved from Alabama to South Memphis was relocated to Beale Street in the 1980s and converted into a museum.

Proponents of the effort to preserve Franklin’s home envision a similar tourism-plus-education component for the historic fixer-upper.

Click here to read more

Source: USA Today | John Beifuss, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal