Great State: Woody’s Old House

OKEMAH, OKLAHOMA — It’s been a vacant lot for 35 years. the old stones of Woody Guthrie’s boyhood home were slowly sinking beneath creeping vines and faded dreams. But on the 100th anniversary of his birth, Dan Riedemann chose this now empty lot to park his trailer.

He is a specialist in restoring and re-building old houses. Dan jumped at the chance to take on the job of re-building the place Okemah residents always called the ‘London House’. “In the old pictures the side porch was over here,” motions Riedemann, “The most common picture was taken right behind you.”

During the annual Woody Guthrie Festival thousands of people flock to Woody’s hometown to hear concerts and look at memorial statues. Many also climb the hill a few blocks to the south to see the empty lot and to pay their respects to on of the great songwriters of the 20th Century. “It’s a challenge,” says Dan, “But to me this is the Graceland of Okemah. This is it.” “All of his ideas, all of his values came from right here.”

Brenda Duke grew up watching the tourists and the treasure hunters who would actually take pieces of the abandoned home while it still stood. Her father bought the property when no one else really cared. Duke and family felt the time was right to start a private foundation in his memory, hoping to raise enough money to put the same house up again. “I’m very excited,” she says. “When Dan called I just couldn’t believe it.”

Builder Dan insists the project is doable. In a back room at the local historical society museum sits a big pile of lumber saved from the house itself. Part of it workers used to re-construct the old front porch.

Negotiations are pending on whether Dan can use the rest to help put the London House back on the map. He told us, “We have enough here to turn this house back into a national landmark.”

For more information on the re-building project you can go to this website. http://www.woodyguthriememorial.com .


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