Preservationists permanently protect Nina Simone’s childhood home

Childhood home of the North Carolina singer is protected indefinitely by preservation easement.
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The childhood home of singer Nina Simone is safe from demolition indefinitely, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The three-room, 660-square foot clapboard house 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 a property owner agrees to permanently protect a historic building’s authentic character, with the agreement carrying forward to all future owners. Preservation NC recently partnered with the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and World Monuments Fund on efforts to protect the site. 

The home is where Simone — born Eunice Waymon in 1933 — taught herself the piano at age 3. It helped inspire some of Simone’s most influential music and political activism, including songs such as ‘Mississippi Goddam’ and ‘Four Women.’

“When the place disappears, frequently, the story does too. Easements are one of the most important tools we have to save places and their stories,” said Myrick Howard, president of Preservation NC. “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 recent years, Simone’s home had fallen into disrepair. Alarmed by the condition of the home and the risk of losing connection to Nina Simone entirely, four African American visual artists — Adam Pendleton, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher and Julie Mehretu — purchased the property for $95,000 in 2017.

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“Today, Nina Simone’s legacy is as important as ever,” Pendleton, a New York-based artist, said in a statement. “This preservation easement is another step towards ensuring that her childhood home, and the history it embodies, persists long into the future.”

In 2018, the National Trust designated the structure as a National Treasure and collaborated with partnering organizations on a preservation strategy that included the areas of rehabilitation, protection and future uses. Preservation of the home, which started last year, is scheduled to continue this fall.

Rehabilitation efforts are supported by proceeds from a national crowdfunding campaign launched by the National Trust last summer, in which celebrities like John Legend, Yusuf/Cat Stevens, Talib Kweli, Mahershala Ali and Issa Rae pledged their support.

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