Nina Simone’s Childhood Home In Tryon Gets ‘National Treasure’ Designation

Jun 19, 2018

The Tryon birthplace of singer, song writer and Civil Rights activist Nina Simone has been named a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The nonprofit is teaming up with the four New York City artists who bought the small wooden cottage in 2017.  The organization will devise a plan to rehabilitate the house so that it might be used by future artists.

Last year, BPR’s Helen Chickering visited the home and spoke with one of the artist homeowners you can see pictures of the home and listen to the story here

Here’s more from the National Trust’s press release:

“Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and social critique in the mid-20th century was unlike anything America had ever heard before,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “And while her musical and social justice legacy burns bright, her childhood home has been neglected. We’re delighted to work with the home’s new owners and the local community to chart a new future for the property that will honor her tremendous contributions to American society and inspire new generations of artists and activists to engage with her legacy.”

Born Eunice Waymon in 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina, it was here she taught herself the piano at age 3, performed in public for the first time at the neighborhood church where her mother preached, and where she experienced the constraints placed on black females in the rural Jim Crow South—a theme that would deeply inform her music and political activism. In recent years, the three-room, 660-square foot clapboard pier and beam house had fallen in disrepair. The vacant property was put on the market in 2016.  Alarmed by the condition of the home and the risk of losing this connection to Nina Simone entirely, four visual artists living in New York City —Adam Pendleton, Ellen Gallagher.  Rashid Johnson,  and Julie Mehretu— purchased the property in 2017. 

“Last year, my fellow artists and I felt an urgent need to rescue Nina Simone’s childhood home—a need sprung from a place of political activism as well as civic duty,” said artist Adam Pendleton. “A figure like Nina Simone—an African American woman from a small town in North Carolina who became the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement—is extraordinarily relevant to artists working today. She constantly expressed her commitment to the democratic values our country espouses by demanding that we live up to them. We are honored to partner with the National Trust to further protect her legacy.”