Saturday, September 18, 2021

Nina Simone’s North Carolina Birthplace to be Preserved

The wooden cottage in North Carolina that was the birthplace of singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone is now under protection by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The trust announced Tuesday that it will develop and find a new use for the house on 30 East Livingston St. in Tryon, a small town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where Simone was born in 1933.

The three-room, 660-square-foot home went on the market in 2016 and was purchased last year for $95,000 by four African-American artists: conceptualist Adam Pendleton, sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher and abstract painter Julie Mehretu.

Nina Simone's birth home
Nina Simone’s birth home

National Trust President and Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Meeks says the trust will work with the home’s new owners and the community to honor Simone’s contributions to society and to “inspire new generations of artists and activists.”

Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on Feb. 21, 1933, the sixth child of John Divine Waymon, a dry-cleaning shop owner and handyman, and Mary Kate Waymon, a Methodist minister, who had come to Tryon in the late 1920s during a short-lived period when their family was prospering financially.

Simone was delivered in the house, and she retained fond memories of the family’s years there, despite the number of children packed into its 660 square feet, with no running water. She remembered her mother hoisting her onto the kitchen counter and giving her “an empty jam-jar to cut out the biscuit shapes in the dough, singing all the while,” as she wrote in her 1992 autobiography, “I Put a Spell on You.” (Simone adopted her stage name in the 1950s while working at a divey nightclub, trying to keep that fact from her mother.)

Simone, born Eunice Waymon, died in 2003 at the age of 70.

In April, the prolific singer and musician was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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