Singer Nina Simone’s NC home protected, can’t be destroyed

Singer Nina Simone’s childhood home is forever spared from demolition after a new agreement was reached in North Carolina.

The house now has permanent protection from being destroyed or significantly altered, the National Trust for Historic Preservation said Tuesday in a news release.

The nonprofit says it teamed up with Preservation North Carolina and World Monuments Fund to get a protection easement, in which a property owner agrees to maintain the character of a historic building.

“When the place disappears, frequently, the story does too,” Myrick Howard, president of Preservation N.C., said in the release. “Easements are one of the most important tools we have to save places and their stories. 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.”

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Nina Simone is shown performing at Avery Fisher Hall in New York on June 27, 1985. RENE PEREZ ASSOCIATED PRESS

The singer’s former home is in Tryon, a town along the South Carolina border and roughly 45 miles southeast of Asheville.

Simone, named Eunice Waymon when she was born in 1933, grew up in Tryon. At her childhood home, the future musician taught herself how to play piano when she was 3 years old, the news release said.

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Nina Simone, pictured at the age of 8, was born was born Eunice Waymon in the Tryon, NC, house in 1933. She quickly developed into a prodigy pianist, leaving Tryon and the Jim Crow South at a young age and rarely returning. Nina Simone Project

In Western North Carolina Simone, who is Black, “experienced racial discrimination that would shape her world view and social activism later in life,” according to the National Trust.

With a voice that combined gospel, blues and classical influences, Simone sometimes used her music to share views about civil rights, the organization said.

She moved away from Tryon but returned later in her career, according to the group. She died in France in 2003.

After her death, she was inducted in 2018 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. She is regarded as an influence for Mary J. Blige and other artists, The News & Observer reported.

Over the years, the house where Simone spent her early years sat empty and became dilapidated, the National Trust said. The thought of losing the 660-square foot structure captured the attention of four New York-based artists.

The group bought the home in 2017, and the National Trust has held recent programming to inform the community about the structure, the organization said. A rehabilitation plan is underway, with preservation expected to continue this fall.

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Simone Jasper is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer and real-time news in the Carolinas.

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