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Nina Simone's Childhood Home Recognized As ‘National Treasure’

Four African-American artists got together and purchased the singer-activist's home in North Carolina.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named the North Carolina childhood home of legendary singer Nina Simone a “National Treasure.”

The nonprofit announced the news this week. The National Trust gives “National Treasure” designations to historically significant sites where the group is involved in their restoration and preservation.

Simone’s childhood house, located in Tryon, has seen several attempts for restoration in the past to no avail. A former economic development director bought the house in 2005 but lost the property after dealing with money issues. The home then hit the market again in 2016, leading many to believe it would be torn down.

Nina Simone's childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina.
Nina Simone's childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina.

According to The New York Times, Four African-American artists — painter Julie Mehretu, sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher and conceptualist Adam Pendleton — had purchased Simone’s home together in 2017 in an effort to rescue the house from destruction and to preserve the legacy she left behind.

The purchase led to the National Trust working in partnership with the house’s owners, the community, and other organizations to seek new protections, evaluate preservation needs and develop a sustainable use for the home, according to a spokeswoman for the organization.

Singer Nina Simone.
Singer Nina Simone.

The project is part of the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF), a $25 million initiative launched in late 2017 “to highlight and celebrate places that evoke centuries of African American achievement and restore African American historic sites across the country.”

Simone’s legacy as an artist is celebrated for her impactful roles as a songwriter, pianist, arranger and activist in the civil rights movement.

“African-American women in jazz and in civil rights: their legacy is often undervalued, and there’s an ongoing struggle for recognition,” Brent Leggs, director of the AACHAF campaign, told the Times.

The project is estimated to cost around $250,000 and no official plan as to what will be done to preserve the space has been set in motion just yet. 

Some supporters would like to see the space become an arts residency program, “with hopes that future artists might be inspired by the same surroundings that sparked a young Simone,” according to the Times.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated that the owners of the house started a $25 million campaign to preserve historical sites in relation to African-American history. In fact, it was not their campaign but the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

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