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.

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Nina Simone Childhood Home Reuse Project Concept 1

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