The family which still has the most resonance for remaining neighbors and community members in Mantua is the Richardson’s. Leona Richardson, a single mother, purchased the home at 3711 Melon St on August 30, 1946. A seamstress for the Wanamaker’s Department Store, she lived there with her only son Roger for nearly five decades before declining health forced her to relocate. Roger, who was just an infant when his mother purchased the home, was raised in Mantua and went on to serve in United States Air Force and was a longtime employee of First Transit bus transportation services. Neighbor Freddie Stokes, who grew up just three doors down from the Richardson’s, recalls Roger, an only child, having all the best toys on the block. Memories of the home typically stop on the first floor though. Children were welcome to sit in awe of Roger’s Give-A-Show projector in the dining room or parlor downstairs, but the second floor of the home was a private refuge for the family.
Leona and Roger both passed in the early 2000s. In their absence, Funeral for a Home pays respect to the lives shared at 3711 Melon Street. This modest two-bedroom home reflects national and demographic trends through its revolving door of tenants, and the opportunity Philadelphia offered its two million residents at its peak population. Whether one was a young family new to this country, or a young black family looking for opportunity in a country that was still grappling with how to best make them feel truly at home, the rowhome offered a safe haven where one could establish their roots and stake claim as a member of a community, a resident of the city, and a citizen of the nation. We look forward to sharing these stories and memorializing these families on May 31.