A Historic Church

Dedicated in 1887, the Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, served as the spiritual, cultural and political home for the local African American community for nearly 130 years. It was also a place of significance for author and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois, who was born and raised in Great Barrington. Du Bois scholars have called the church “a crucible that nurtured the spirit and honed the skills of ‘Willie’ Du Bois” and “a place of continual and important social reference for him.”

Tucked away at 9 Elm Court in the heart of downtown, the church is a distinctive example of 19th-century vernacular church architecture. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Massachusetts Register of Historic Places, and is a key site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail. In 2018, Preservation Massachusetts added the church to its list of Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources.

A Community Mission

Clinton Church Restoration was formed in late 2016 by a group of local community members concerned about the fate of the historic property. The church,  which had been vacant for two years, had recently been deconsecrated and put on the market. With longtime congregant Wray Gunn serving as chair, the group quickly incorporated as a Massachusetts nonprofit and began fundraising to save the church. Thanks to the contributions of more than 400 donors, we surpassed our initial $100,000 fundraising goal in five months and purchased the property in May 2017.

Now a 501(c)(3),  Clinton Church Restoration’s goal is to preserve and repurpose the historic property as a vital, self-sustaining entity for community use that celebrates and honors the local African American community, the church’s 130-year history and its first female pastor, Rev. Esther Dozier, and the legacy of Great Barrington’s most famous native son, W.E.B. Du Bois.

A Plan for the Future

We have been working with key stakeholders, architects, designers, planners, and consultants to develop a plan for the preservation and ultimate use of the property since the beginning. Community input from two multi-day planning sessions held in 2017 has been incorporated into a visioning report and preliminary interpretative plan for the project. A 142-page Historic Structure Report, completed in January 2018, documents the building’s social and architectural history, existing conditions and identifies and prioritizes treatment recommendations.

The preservation of the historic Clinton Church, which is part of a growing movement to preserve African American historic places around the country, has already garnered national attention. In 2018, the National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grants program awarded a grant to Housatonic Heritage for Clinton Church Restoration’s initial stabilization and planning phase. The project has also received a Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund emergency grant from the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and Community Preservation Act funding from the Town of Great Barrington.

Please join us! We invite you to explore this site to learn more about our activities and meet our board of directors and advisory board. Stay updated by adding your name to our mailing list below. Donations to the project may be made here.


The mission of Clinton Church Restoration is to restore and repurpose the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, as a vibrant cultural heritage center that interprets the life and legacy of native son W.E.B. Du Bois, honors the 130-year-old history of the church and its first female pastor, Rev. Esther Dozier, and celebrates local African American history and culture.

A Brief History of the Effort

In November 2016 about 25 people from the community gathered to discuss options for purchasing, restoring, and preserving the history and legacy of Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in Great Barrington. Present were elected officials, members of the former congregation, local historians, activists, preservationists, civil rights scholars, W.E.B. Dubois scholars, and concerned citizens.

All share a love for the church building, and a desire to see it preserved. This was a strategy meeting and did not include “programming” or discussions on the ultimate use, as there is some urgency to acquire the property and implement some stop-gap measures to prevent further damage from the leaking roof.

A solution for the purchase of the church was proposed, which included creating a new nonprofit organization to hold title to the building (at least through the acquisition/restoration phases) and partnering with the regional nonprofit Housatonic Heritage, which agreed to provide fiduciary services.

Clinton Church Restoration, Inc. incorporated as a Massachusetts nonprofit in November 2016 and received tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status in November 2017.


Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church Named One of Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources

FROM PRESERVATION MASSACHUSETTS (October 18, 2018) — The Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church has been named one of Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources. Since 1993, this list has been compiled and published by Preservation Massachusetts, the statewide nonprofit historic preservation advocacy organization. Tucked away at 9 Elm Street in the heart of downtown, the Clinton AME Zion Church …

Project Architect Sought for Restoration of Former Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church

Great Barrington, Mass. (August 20, 2018) — Clinton Church Restoration, Inc. is seeking proposals for historic preservation, design and engineering services for the former Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church at 9 Elm Court in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The nonprofit purchased the historic property last year and plans to restore and repurpose it as an African American …

Community Preservation Act Funds Awarded for Restoration of Historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church

Great Barrington, Mass. (May 24, 2018) — Clinton Church Restoration, Inc. has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Town of Great Barrington’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) Funds. The recommendation to fund the project was made by the town’s Community Preservation Committee and approved at Town Meeting on May 7. The grant will be used …



Mailing Address
PO Box 1075
Great Barrington, MA 01230

email: saveamechurch@gmail.com

Location of Clinton Church
9 Elm Court
Great Barrington, MA 01230