“Hippie house” referred to an old mansion at 47 Main St in Madison, New Jersey, just across the street from the local liberal arts college, Drew University. The experiences of both the student body at the University and the residents at “the house” intertwined and overlapped during the sixties in interesting and insightful ways. For instance, when rock music culture emerged during the latter sixties, a surprising number of bands and artists made their way to the small campus for concerts, for lack of an existing circuit for the new music phenomenon. Many of them visited Drew either following or just prior to playing at the Fillmore East (once that venue opened in spring, 1968). One of the bands fitting this pattern was the Jefferson Airplane. The band played Fillmore East in summer, 1968. To promote the show, the venue’s owner/manager, Bill Graham, built and placed a full-size WWI era biplane on the street outside the venue! Ordered by the city Fire Marshall to remove it, Graham allowed several concert goers to haul it off. As it happened, those concert goers hauled it back to their house at 47 Main St., Madison, New Jersey. A picture of two of them piecing it back together is below.
That prop airplane went on to become the centerpiece of growing tensions with town law enforcement and residents, strange and compelling collaboration between the students at the college across the street, and even included the involvement of the members of Jefferson Airplane as the band came to Drew that October for a show. Their arrival coincided with an overt act of violence–the prop plane was doused with fuel and set ablaze, while a coordinated, multi-county anti-narcotics police force of several dozen raided the home and arrested 120 people attending a birthday party at the house. Days later, the band performed in the college’s gymnasium, the “hippie house” residents attended the concert and met backstage with the band members. When the band took the stage, Grace Slick announced their plight to the audience and passed the basket to help out with their legal troubles. The effort apparently raised a couple hundred dollars. Ultimately, the effort proved not much more than symbolic as the local judge ordered the residents evicted days later.