• Nina Simone Childhood Home Reuse Project

    May 1, 2024

    Nina Simone’s Childhood Home is a 560 square foot, three-room clapboard house, with a front porch opening onto its tree-ringed .21-acre plot on 30 East Livingston Street in Tryon, North Carolina. Simone’s family lived in the home from 1933 to 1937, and over several decades it passed through the hands of other owners who altered the building before it fell vacant and into severe disrepair in the 1990s.

    Multiple stalled attempts to rehabilitate the house throughout the early 2000’s required the removal of structural additions and ahistorical materials, returning it to its original 1930s footprint and getting it ready for a new start.

    A New Future for Nina Simone’s Past

    In purchasing Nina Simone’s Childhood Home in Tryon, North Carolina in 2017, the new owners (conceptual artist Adam Pendleton, sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher, and abstract artist Julie Mehretu) felt that buying and preserving the home was itself a political act amid the Black Lives Matter movement and the attempted erasure of Black history.

    The National Trust for Historic Preservation's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is implementing a rehabilitation plan designed in partnership with the artists’ and Tryon community’s vision for the home’s potential future use. It identifies ownership and stewardship models for the site and creates additional protections to ensure that this symbol of Simone’s early life and legacy will endure for generations to come.

    Adam Pendleton & Brent Leggs on the Nina Simone Childhood Home Preservation Project

    To elevate the beauty of the home, and create an authentic presentation as possible, the house will be reopened to the public without replicated furniture or the addition of modern interior amenities.

    Instead, the restoration plans, developed by Mathews Architecture, P.A. and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, will focus on repairing and preserving the original structure to prevent further damage and allow guests to experience the house through minimally invasive accessibility upgrades such as leveling floors, repairing walls and windows, and installing a ramp alongside the building to access the front porch.

    Archaeological surveys of the land, old family photographs, and the common practices of Black Americans living in the rural South, suggest there would have been a swept yard around the perimeter of the house, a kitchen garden, and a workshed. Marking these features in the home’s landscape will offer opportunities for visitors to learn more about the resilience, self-sufficiency, and connection to nature Simone and her family shared.

    Nina Simone Childhood Home Reuse Project Site Diagram

    Beyond the inherent significance of the house, Tryon itself, founded in 1879, is a key part of Simone’s life story. Located in the town’s historically African American East Side neighborhood, Nina Simone’s Childhood Home is up the street from St. Luke’s CME Church, where her mother, Mary Kate Waymon, was a preacher and Simone herself first began playing piano. The town cemetery, and a Masonic Lodge are also located nearby and are historical mainstays of the local Black community.

    The Action Fund is partnering with local leaders and North Carolina historic preservation organizations to develop plans for a “cultural district” surrounding The Nina Simone Childhood Home which would create immersive and educational experiences for visitors, and support tourism, locally-owned small businesses, and broader revitalisation efforts in Tryon’s East Side neighborhood.

    To receive updates about the Nina Simone Childhood Home, other ongoing Action Fund projects, and learn about more ways to support our work, sign up for our enewsletter.

    Nina Simone Childhood Home Reuse Project Concept 1
  • Forward Movement at the Nina Simone Childhood Home

    August 25, 2022

    Thanks to funding from the Mellon Foundation, the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is taking the lead role, in partnership with artists Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Adam Pendleton, and Ellen Gallagher, in fully rehabilitating and activating the Nina Simone Childhood Home. Previous funders Hillsdale Fund, Covington Foundation, World Monuments Fund, and Community Foundation of Western North Carolina also continue to support the work.

    Currently, the Action Fund team is working with Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects and Mathews Architecture to complete planning and design documents for the home’s interior and landscape. The planning is scheduled to be completed by late 2022, with rehabilitation work anticipated to begin in early 2023.

    The National Trust is seeking qualified contractors to complete the project. The full project scope will be released via RFP in late 2022.

    As part of the ongoing efforts to protect and rehabilitate the house, the North Carolina National Register Advisory Committee has approved a nomination to list Simone’s childhood home on the National Register of Historic Places. The Department of the Interior is now considering it for final approval.

  • RFP for Nina Simone Childhood Home Exterior Rehabilitation

    October 29, 2021

    Nina Simone's Childhood Home, a white clapboard house with black trim.

    photo by: Nancy Pierce

    As a part of our Nina Simone Childhood Home National Treasure campaign, we are seeking proposals to complete exterior rehabilitation of the Nina Simone Childhood Home. This work is a continuation of stabilization efforts started in 2019, by the National Trust, World Monuments Fund and local partners. The exterior rehabilitation seeks to completed repairs and preserve the character of birthplace of legendary musician and civil rights activists Nina Simone in Tryon, NC.

    The Request for Proposal (RFP) is available to download from savingplaces.org/requests-for-proposals.

  • Explore the Nina Simone Childhood Home Reuse Project

    August 31, 2021

    Before becoming the High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone was born and raised in Tryon, North Carolina, in a home where she was encouraged to find her voice—both through song and activism. Once in jeopardy, Simone’s childhood home was saved from demolition in part by the National Trust.

    For several years, the National Trust has engaged the local community and fans of Nina Simone everywhere to better understand what her work means to them, and as a result, how her childhood home can be preserved, and re-activated to honor her enduring legacy.

    Learn more about the plans and add your thoughts on the future of the space.

  • Read About Nina Simone's Childhood Home in Elle Décor

    September 18, 2020

    The front porch is a quintessential element of North Carolina houses.

    photo by: Nancy Pierce

    The front porch of Nina Simone's Childhood Home.

    The National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and its work at Nina Simone’s Childhood Home in Tryon, North Carolina, were featured in the October issue of Elle Décor magazine in an article titled “It’s a New Dawn at Nina Simone’s Childhood Home.”

    The piece explains the site’s importance in Simone’s development as an artist, noting: “Her childhood in North Carolina left its mark, good and bad. She experienced her share of racial injustice growing up—and never forgot it. At the height of the civil rights movement, she composed the era’s most defiant song, “Mississippi Goddam,” in response to the assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers in Mississippi and the murder of four Black girls in a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.”

    Read the full article and learn why Brent Leggs, the Fund’s Executive Director, hopes the project will inspire “another thousand artists to become involved in preservation to own and steward, while bringing life back to these kinds of spaces and honoring Black cultural legacies.’”

    In September, the National Trust, in partnership with the World Monuments Fund and Preservation North Carolina, secured permanent protection of the home with a preservation easement. Learn more about this critical preservation step.

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