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Nina Simone’s childhood home now a National Treasure

Organizers may use it to host future artist residencies

Soul, jazz and blues vocalist Nina Simone relaxes at the Hanover Grand during a reception held for her in London in 1968. Her childhood home in North Carolina was just named a National Treasure by the National Trust.
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The childhood home of music legend Nina Simone was designated a National Treasure this morning, ensuring that the former residence of the performer and civil rights activist will be preserved for fans and future use by other artists.

The designation, which has been given to fewer than 100 such locations around the country, kicks off a campaign of restoration and renovation expected to last 18 months and cost roughly $250,000. Organizers don’t want to simply create a museum, but perhaps open the home to support an artist residency program.

The home in Tryon, North Carolina, had been the focus of previous preservation efforts. Kevin McIntyre, a local economic development director, bought the home in 2005 and invested more than $100,000 in restoration, but was forced to sell in 2016. It’s currently in stable condition.

As the New York Times reported in 2017, four African-American artists pooled together $95,000 to purchase and saved the then-vacant property: conceptualist Adam Pendleton, sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, filmmaker Ellen Gallagher, and painter Julie Mehretu.

This restoration will be the first such project to take advantage of the National Trust’s new African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a $25 million, multi-year initiative announced last year focused on preserving and promoting stories of African-American achievement, activism, and community.

Telling stories like Simone’s will add balance to the current historical preservation landscape. According to the National Trust, less than 2 percent of national parks, monuments, and sites honor women, and less than 6 percent honor African-Americans.

Simone, subject of a recent Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, earned four Grammy nominations during her career, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and wrote a number of influential songs, such as “Mississippi Goddam” and her 1958 hit, “I Loves You, Porgy.”