Richard King Mellon Foundation Makes Major Donation to Preserve Home of National Negro Opera Company

By Nicolas Quiroga
(Credit: Lee Paxton)

The Richard King Mellon Foundation will donate $ 500,000 to help remodel the former House of the National Negro Opera Company in Homewood, which the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently named it one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the U.S.

The home, once the pride of Pittsburgh, is close to collapse, having been abandoned for more than 50 years, despite having been a major cultural center. It housed the National Negro Opera Company, which was founded in 1941 by opera singer Mary Cardwell Dawson. The company disbanded in 1962.

“This property was once the center of black cultural life in Pittsburgh and a national arts destination,” said Foundation Director Sam Reiman in a press release.

The restoration of the house costs more than $ 2 million and the Richard King Mellow Foundation hopes that this initial donation will inspire other leaders in the local and national community. The restoration of the home directly helps young artists, providing opportunities for Pittsburgh children most affected by racial disparities in education and art.

“I feel a great obligation to this important monument in American history that has been neglected for so long,” added mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.

The grant will go through Pittsburgh Opera, which is assisting with the effort and will serve as Fiscal Sponsor for the grant.

“Pittsburgh Opera is working as a key collaborator in developing the artistic programming that will be based in the renovated facility to celebrate the rich operatic history of our region and to fulfill the dream of Mary Cardwell Dawson by providing opportunities for children in Pittsburgh most affected by racial inequalities in education and the arts,” said Christopher Hahn, Pittsburgh Opera’s General Director.