NC home of legendary musician, activist receives historic building protection

Nina Simone’s childhood home is located in Tryon, North Carolina

NC home of legendary musician, activist receives historic building protection

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, in partnership with the World Monuments Fund and Preservation North Carolina, recently secured protection of Nina Simone’s childhood home.

The home, located in Tryon, North Carolina, is now protected with a preservation easement held by Preservation North Carolina, a statewide historic preservation advocacy organization.

A preservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement where the present and all future property owners agree to permanently protect a historic building’s authentic character.

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The easement will not impede rehabilitation of the home, and will ensure that its historic character is maintained indefinitely and prevent demolition.

“Preservation NC has long been in the business of saving the places that matter to the diverse communities of North Carolina — and equally important, we are committed to telling the stories of those places,” said Myrick Howard, president of Preservation NC. “When the place disappears, frequently, the story does too. We are beyond delighted and honored to be a part of preserving not just Nina Simone’s childhood home, but the powerful story of her roots in North Carolina.”

In 2018, the National Trust, as a part of its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, designated Nina Simone’s Childhood Home as a National Treasure and joined with its owners and partners — World Monuments Fund, The Nina Simone Project, and the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission — to preserve the home.

The National Treasure campaign seeks to develop and implement a preservation strategy for the home in the areas of rehabilitation, protection and future uses that ensures that the symbol of Simone’s early life and legacy will endure for generations to come.

“Nina Simone — legendary musician, social justice champion, and global inspiration,” said Katherine Malone France, National Trust Chief Preservation officer, “defied constraints placed on Black female performers in the mid-20th century to become the voice of civil rights. In order to honor and carry forward her extraordinary legacy, a group of visionary artists and preservationists have collaborated to demonstrate our commitment to equity and racial justice by protecting an American landmark in perpetuity, and ensuring that Simone’s unique voice continues to inspire and empower people through her childhood home.”

Born Eunice Waymon in 1933, the home is where Simone taught herself the piano at age 3. In recent years, the three-room, 660-square foot clapboard house had fallen into disrepair. Alarmed by the condition of the home and the risk of losing this connection to Nina Simone entirely, four African American visual artists — Adam Pendleton, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher and Julie Mehretu — purchased the property in 2017.

“Today, Nina Simone’s legacy is as important as ever. This preservation easement is another step toward ensuring that her childhood home, and the history it embodies, persists long into the future,” said Adam Pendleton. “We’re delighted to be working with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation North Carolina alongside many other partners to make this continuous stewardship a reality.”

Preservation North Carolina currently holds over 800 easements across the state, including Loray Mill in Gastonia, Grove Arcade in Asheville and Blackberry Hill in Tryon. The Nina Simone Childhood Home easement was made possible due to funding support from World Monuments Fund.

“World Monuments Fund is thrilled to be a part of this important project to protect Nina Simone’s childhood home, providing the opportunity for future generations to engage with her legacy,” said Bénédicte de Montlaur, President and CEO of World Monuments Fund. “Since 2018, we have worked hand-in-hand with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and through them, local partners on the ground, to protect the site, and to develop a plan for its sustainable new use. This is a model project that underscores the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of underrepresented groups, to ensure that these narratives and collective memories are not marginalized.”

Preservation of the home, which started last year, is scheduled to continue this fall, guided by the exterior rehabilitation plan developed by Asheville-based Mathews Architecture. Rehabilitation on the home is supported by proceeds from a national crowdfunding campaign launched by the National Trust in summer 2019. The National Trust is also wrapping up a series of community engagement sessions with local organizations in Tryon to inform the future use of the home and ensure benefit to the neighborhood and African American community.

For more information on the Nina Simone Childhood Home and campaign updates, visit www.savingplaces.org/NinaSimone

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