The House That Wills Built

I just got home from five days of exploring. And while I’m currently sick as all hell with some kind of terrible respiratory thing, I still want to share one of my favorite and most fascinating stops on the trip: This old funeral home, where we spent the day shooting with permission from the current resident and owner, Eric.

The history of The House is incredible and strange. Originally built as a German opera hall, the building would take on many additional roles in its lifetime — Masonic temple, prohibition-era speakeasy, hospital, and most famously, the funeral parlor that doubled as one of the most successful black-owned businesses and gathering spaces in the city.

In the 80s, after the original owner’s passing, the family behind the landmark funeral home opened a second local parlor by the same name. Unfortunately, business went off the rails. Legal matters would haunt them in coming decades, and eventually both parlors were shuttered.

After sitting abandoned for several years, the city intended to raze the original building. Eric purchased The House in 2010 to save it. He has since been working to restore and renovate this amazing place into its next chapter of life: a one-of-a-kind home and exhibition space for his art, vintage finds, and collectors items.

Like the rest of The House, the former morgue, now furnished with old medical equipment, is pitch black. All my shots are light-painted long exposures.

The “Cloud Room” had several uses over the building’s lifetime: gathering place for Masonic rituals, speakeasy, and finally, during the funeral parlor’s operational years, it was used to display caskets.

The different chapels within The House were all themed…Egyptian, Grecian…some of the original gold mummy decorations were still propped up in the Egypt room.

Thanks to Eric for letting us spend the day shooting and learning about this amazing place. I’m sure I’ll never see another like it.

3 comments

  1. Wow what a fantastic old building. Love the little cracked statuette and the manikins. :>)

  2. Great place…I can see why you liked it so much – good work with the light painting too.

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