Alston House restoration a commitment to community - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Alston House restoration a commitment to community

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John R. Goodie is a Gilbert resident and a Mesa MLK committee member.

Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 4:30 am | Updated: 4:25 pm, Thu Apr 14, 2011.

With collaborated determination, dedication, commitment, vision and a dream, it certainly shows that all things are possible. Consider the restoration project of the Alston House — a house that sat vacant for over 30 years and was the first original residence Dr. Lucius Alston, the first African American doctor to practice in Mesa.

The Mesa Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee and the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens — along with the city of Mesa, volunteers, professionals and businesses communities — came together to restore the property and plan to establish the Alston House as a Peace and Social Justice Community Center for the Washington/Escobedo Park community which is located at 453 N. Pima St. in Mesa.

Alston opened his office to anyone who needed care regardless of race or the ability to pay, but primarily served the African American, Hispanic and Native American communities. Late at night, he also treated many white patients who were too embarrassed to be seen during the day and too poor to go elsewhere in Mesa during the period of 1940-58.

The 1922 white stucco house was known as the “Lights House” because of the lighted French crystal chandeliers hanging upstairs in the two-story structure that sat on a corner lot much larger than surrounding properties that distinguishes it from homes in the immediate area.

It’s been said that Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and other Cubs black baseball players stayed at the Alston House and with a few black locals during times of segregation because they were often refused hotel rooms.

A simple grave marker in the Mesa City Cemetery gives a five-line snapshot of Dr. Alston’s life. He was born in West Virginia in 1892, served in World War 1 and died in 1958.

The newly-renovated house will provide offices for the two major non-profit organizations, MAHC and MLK committee, involved in the promotion of civil rights, social justice, economic development and equal opportunity. It will also serve as a community center where people can gather and celebrate the rich cultural history and diversity we all share.

Phil and Christy Austin took the lead on this restoration project... Kudos guys. Sadly and unfortunately, after years of desperate searching, we’ve haven’t be able to locate any photographs of Dr. Alston which would have been priceless, fitting and proper to hang inside the home. If you know anyone who might have any 1930 to 1960 era wall pictures, small medical equipment or doctors accessories and would like to donate to them to the Alston House, we’d love to have them.

Please join us for the Alston House grand opening this weekend as we “together put a face to that place” in the name of peace and social justice. The VIP reception is from 6-9 p.m. Friday, when contributors to the Alston House and a few living patients of Dr. Alston will be recognized.

On Saturday, a community open house will take place from 9 a.m. to noon. Refreshments will be provided.

The Grand Opening Committee will promote a “Buy a Brick” donation program. The brick cost is $100 and would be added to the home’s “Peace and Social Justice Wall” in your name or a loved one whose memory would be forever associated with this home and this historic community.

For more information, contact me at (480) 329-3116 or e-mail me at jrgoodie@peoplepc.com.   

• John R. Goodie is a Mesa resident and a Mesa MLK committee member.

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