Permanent protection for Nina Simone’s childhood home

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Nina Simone sculpture in Tryon by Zenos Frudakis | Photo by Seth Taylor

Ready for some good news? The childhood home of iconic musician, performer + activist Nina Simone, located just down the road from Asheville in Tryon (about 50 minutes from Asheville), will be preserved indefinitely as part of a preservation easement.

What does that mean? The home can never be demolished, but can be restored. Restorations are underway now.

Multiple groups came together to make this happen. It all started back in 2017, when four African-American artists based in NYC (Adam Pendleton, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher, and Julie Mehretu) joined forces to buy the property for $95,000. In 2018, the home was designated a National Treasure.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Fund created a rehabilitation plan for the site with the help of groups including the Nina Simone Project + the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, and the trust worked with the World Monuments Fund + Preservation North Carolina (a preservation advocacy organization) to ensure permanent protection of the site. The preservation easement is held by Preservation North Carolina and the agreement carries forward to all future owners

Here’s what to know about Nina’s childhood

  • Nina was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in 1933 to mother Mary Kate (a Methodist preacher) and father John Divine (an entrepreneur). The Waymon family moved into the home in 1929. She was the youngest of six children.
  • She taught herself to play piano at three years old and eventually took classical lessons. She performed in her first recital at age 11 in 1943 at the Tryon Library. Because the South was segregated, her parents had to give up their front row seats for her performance to white audience members. She refused to play until her parents were back in their original seats.
  • She also played organ at St. Luke C.M.E. Church
  • One of her piano teachers created the Eunice Waymon Fund to help Nina continue her training after she left for Allen High School – a boarding school in Asheville where she graduated valedictorian before moving to NYC to study at Julliard. She would eventually return to Tryon late in her life, though she died in 2003 in her adopted home, France.

Nina’s childhood home is a 660-square-foot, three-room clapboard house at 30 E. Livingston St., in the heart of Tryon’s African-American district, that features original objects and furniture, including her piano + sheet music.

Preservation efforts are scheduled to continue this fall. While you can’t visit the house yet in person, you can take a virtual tour here.