Nina Simone Childhood Home, Tryon, North Carolina

photo by: Nancy Pierce

African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund

Nina Simone Childhood Home

  • Location: Tryon, North Carolina

Nina Simone’s distinctive voice, powerful blend of classical, blues, and gospel music, and passionate civil rights activism ensured that her decades-long legacy endures.

Despite her fame, until a few years ago little was known about Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina. In 2017, the humble, three-room clapboard house where she spent her childhood and began learning to play the piano was in severe disrepair and put up for sale.

With the threat of its impending demolition, four African American artists sprang into action. Conceptual artist Adam Pendleton, sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher, and abstract artist Julie Mehretu founded Daydream Therapy, LLC and collectively bought the home for $95,000.

With leadership and guidance from the four artists, the National Trust for Historic Preservation's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund—along with the Tryon community, Nina Simone Project, World Monuments Fund, and North Carolina African American Heritage Commission—are preserving Simone’s Tryon home.

Nina Simone's Childhood Home, Tryon, North Carolina

photo by: Nancy Pierce

Simone's sheet music and period-style piano remain from previous efforts to use the house as a museum.

Nina Simone, Activist and Musician

Nina Simone was born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina in 1933. As a young girl, she attended her mother’s sermons at St. Luke’s AME church and began playing the piano during services. After hearing Simone accompany the community choir at the Tryon Theater at the age of six, Mrs. Muriel Mazzanovich, a local piano teacher, convinced her mother that given her extraordinary talent she should pursue lessons. Mazzanovich began teaching Simone at her house in Tryon and organized the Eunice Waymon Fund to raise money for her to continue her education through high school.

To thank those who supported the fund, Simone performed her debut recital at the Tryon Library in 1943 at age 11. However, living in a Jim Crow-segregated South, Simone’s parents were forced to give up their seats for white audience members when they arrived. Simone refused to play until her parents were returned to their rightful place in the front row.

Following her high school graduation, Simone moved to New York City in 1950 to attend a summer program at Juilliard and apply for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. However, Curtis rejected her application—allegedly due to her race.

1969 publicity photo of Nina Simone

photo by: StroudProductions

1969 publicity photo of Nina Simone.

Instead, she worked odd jobs before she began playing piano and singing at a bar in Atlantic City. It was there that she changed her name to Nina Simone and her career as the High Priestess of Soul was born.

Through the 1960s, Simone built a reputation as an artist and civil rights activist. She maintained personal friendships with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and the violence of the Civil Rights Movement and tragic events such as the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, motivated Simone to express her ideas and emotions through explosive original songs such as “Mississippi Goddam” and “Four Women,” and acclaimed covers including “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free.”

Following her passing in 2003, broader recognition of Simone’s historic significance has resulted in the Oscar-nominated documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? released in 2015; NPR’s inclusion of her 1965 song “I Put a Spell on You” as the number three album on their 150 Greatest Albums Made by Women list; and her 2018 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.


Develop a rehabilitation plan and create additional protections for Simone’s home.

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