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Schedule set for Woody Guthrie boyhood home rebuild in Oklahoma; $450k in pledges received

TULSA, Okla. - Work on the rebuild of folk-singing legend Woody Guthrie's boyhood home is scheduled to begin in mid-March so it can to be finished before an annual summer festival that celebrates the singer's life, a project manager said Friday.

Dan Riedemann, who is in charge of the rebuild, also said the project in the town of Okemah has generated around $450,000 in pledges from the public for the reconstruction of the 1860s-era property, which he's budgeted at $600,000.

"This thing is blowing up through the roof," said Riedemann, who wants to debut the completed house July 12, during Okemah's annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival — dubbed WoodyFest — which attracts thousands of enthusiasts from around the world to the town of 3,300.

"We really have to hit the ground running and get the thing done," he said. "We'll have 90 days to get the house completely constructed for people to tour in the middle of July. I really don't want to wait until WoodyFest 2015."

Best known for the song "This Land is Your Land," Guthrie came of age during the Great Depression and later embraced left-wing politics, including for a time some tenets of communism. By weaving social issues into his music, he reimagined folk songs as platforms for protest, starting a creative tradition carried on by scores of other top artists, including Pete Seeger, who died this week at 94.

Once shunned by his hometown and state, Guthrie has enjoyed a renaissance in Oklahoma in recent years, as a new generation is introduced to his songs and activism. The singer's relatives have given their blessing for the project on his boyhood home and many plan to attend its unveiling in July.

The rebuild will use original planks salvaged from the run-down property called London House, which was eventually torn down because it was in such a state of disrepair.

The local businessman who bought the property saved the lumber for the day when others would recognize Guthrie's importance to the town and the country. The bundle of preserved wood eventually ended up at the Okfuskee County History Center.

London House is to be rebuilt on the same lot, and project organizers want to come as close as possible to making it look like it did when Guthrie lived there.

"When you walk in the door, I want people to see the house as close to how it looked when he lived in it — the old wood-burning cook stove, bedrooms set up the way they would have been," Riedemann said. "We're hoping it will be eye-opening for people."

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