Preservation Magazine, Summer 2019

A New HOPE for the Future of Nina Simone's Childhood Home

HOPE Crew working at the Nina Simone Childhood Home.

photo by: Nancy Pierce

HOPE Crew members repainting the childhood home of Nina Simone in May of 2019.

Singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone spent her formative years in a three-room clapboard house in Tryon, North Carolina. Once on the verge of demolition, the house was purchased by four New York-based artists—Adam Pendleton, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher, and Julie Mehretu—in 2017 and named a National Treasure by the National Trust. But while the structure had been saved, its future remained in jeopardy.

This past May, participants in the National Trust’s Hands-On Preservation Experience (HOPE) Crew trades-training program kicked off restoration work on the building. Seven young trainees spent several days at the property, replacing deteriorated or missing wooden boards and then applying a fresh coat of paint, donated by Benjamin Moore. While Asheville, North Carolina–based Mathews Architecture develops a stabilization plan, the National Trust and the house’s owners are working with community leaders to determine the structure’s most pressing needs and how it will serve the public. An Indiegogo fundraising campaign ( launched July 1 to support future repairs.

“[The house] aligns with [our] African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s goal of telling the full history,” says Tiffany Tolbert, senior field officer for the Trust. “It symbolizes the start of Nina Simone’s professional and educational life, and really shows the experience of African American women musicians in the Jim Crow–era South.”

Nicholas Som is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He enjoys museums of all kinds, Philadelphia sports, and tracking down great restaurants.

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