Owners of Aretha Franklin’s Memphis birth place fight to keep house

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Queen of Soul will be laid to rest in Detroit on Friday, but the saga continues over Aretha Franklin's birth home in Memphis as the case involving it returns to Environmental Court Tuesday morning.

"Memphis can be better, it can start with 406 Lucy, with Aretha Franklin's birthplace," said Mildred House, whose family owns Franklin's birth home.

On Tuesday, Environmental Court Judge Patrick Dandridge ordered the receiver of the house, Lemoyne-Owen College, to come up with a plan for restoration in 45 days.

The family told the judge that the taxes on the house will be paid in full thanks to donations from the community.

Vera House, the owner who raised a dozen children in the house, said she feels left out of the planning process, though Jeffrey Higgs with Lemoyne-Owen said House is part of the process.

Mildred House and her sister Nicole Waters grew up there. It's something these two sisters have in common with Franklin — that common thread keeps them fighting to save the memories they share with the Queen of Soul.

"We used to think of it all the time, like Aretha used to live in this house, we wonder how true it is."

For a while the girls didn't believe the stories about the small cottage belonging to Franklin's family until she showed up and put their doubts to shame.

"It was a great feeling to be around her in '95," Waters said. "I was on the porch next to her. I was 14 years old."

From then on the family felt charged to fight to keep the home.

"When Aretha Franklin visited, she told us, 'Make sure you hold on to the house.'"

And with limited resources, that's what the family has been doing. The girls' mother moved onto the next street but still checks on the home.

Right now the family owes around $1,200 in taxes and on Tuesday, they are hoping the judge will hear them out.

They will ask for more time to preserve the house, now boarded up and covered in messages from fans.

Fans have been showing a lot of love and they plan on preserving that too, to go in the house.

The family wants the city to wrap support around them in that same way to help them keep their promise to Franklin.