Fans still flock to King of Pop’s former home
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org June 24, 2014 10:10PM
Tori, left, and Meikos Ellis view photos on his phone after stopping at the Jackson family home early Sunday, June 22, 2014, on their way from North Carolina to Minnesota. | Joe Puchek~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 26, 2014 6:14AM
GARY — The small white frame house at 2300 Jackson St. is a required stop for Michael Jackson fans the world over.
Its quiet location near Roosevelt High School causes many passers-by to ask “is this it?” and whether there are tours (not at this time). They take photos of the house and granite monument identifying it as the childhood home of the King of Pop.
Wednesday marks five years since Jackson died from lethal levels of an anesthetic administered by his doctor. There’s a noticeable uptick in the steady stream of fans.
The Ariza family hails from Barranquilla, Colombia, and are in the midst of a cross-country road trip across the United States. They’ve hit New York City and Niagara Falls so far, but Henry Ariza told his parents that they needed to come to 2300 Jackson St..
“My son knows all the Michael Jackson songs,” said his mom, but Henry said “Black or White” is his favorite.
Anderson resident Myer Hunt decided to take his friend Duane Mason to the house for the first time as part of Mason’s birthday. Hunt remembers June 25, 2009, vividly, as his mother died the same day.
“We were talking about Farrah Fawcett dying the same day and someone said, ‘Did you hear that Michael Jackson died?’ ” Hunt said. “I told them they were mistaken, but then I found out it was true. It was very shocking.”
For days after Jackson’s death, the street was cut off to traffic as thousands made the pilgrimage to the house, leaving teddy bears, flowers, notes of condolence and any number of tokens. Some fans were inconsolable that Jackson could be dead at age 50.
The house was weathered at the time, and fan visits wore down the grass to a brown mess. The house now has a black, iron fence, a pristine lawn and attractive landscaping. The house’s siding has been replaced and security features have been added.
Though the block is somewhat rundown, several homes are being built or rehabilitated this summer in the 2300 and 2400 blocks of Jackson Street as part of the “Jackson Street of Dreams?” project, in connection with the Fuller Center for Housing of Gary and the City of Gary.
Mason had the reaction many do about the house: “I can’t believe they raised nine kids there. It can’t be more than a couple hundred square feet.”
As the falsetto voice of the Jackson 5, Michael played many venues in Gary and across the Midwest at a young age. Shortly after “I Want You Back” became a No. 1 hit in 1968, the family moved to California. Michael was 11.
There have been many fits and starts on plans for a possible Michael Jackson museum being built in Gary, but a small piece of his career may be on display soon.
In the past year, the house located just south of 2300 Jackson St. has been renovated in a similar style, and the Jackson family plans to turn it into a memorabilia museum and gift shop in the near future, sources close to the family said.
A festival celebrating the life and music of Michael Jackson is planned for the last weekend in August.
Jackson’s “Thriller” album sold more than 100 million copies, and his music and dance style has influenced many in the pop, R&B and hip-hop industry.
A worker at the house on Tuesday took a church youth group inside the gates to take a photo on the front steps.
The group, which includes teens from the U.S. and Canada, is working on projects in Northwest Indiana this week, such as refurbishing the Gary Little League fields.
“It’s part of the history of this place, and who hasn’t been touched by his music,” said chaperone Anson Veenstra of Baldwin, Wisconsin.