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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. The shingle-style church is historically and architecturally significant for its association with the religious and cultural heritage of African Americans in rural New England, and as a distinctive example of 19th-century vernacular church architecture. It is also distinguished by its connection with Great Barrington native W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the country’s most influential scholars and civil rights leaders, and cofounder of the NAACP. As a teenager, Du Bois who wrote regular newspaper columns about the activities of the A.M.E Zion Society, which built the church after 16 years of fundraising. 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 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, vacant for two years, had recently been deconsecrated and put on the market. With longtime congregant Wray Gunn serving as chair, the group 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 just five months and in May 2017, we purchased the property.

Now a 501(c)(3),  Clinton Church Restoration’s mission is to restore the historic property for adaptive reuse as a vibrant heritage site and visitor center that interprets the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, celebrates the Berkshires’ rich African American heritage and honors the history of the church and the work of its first female pastor, the Rev. Esther Dozier.

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. In 2017, community input was gathered from multi-day planning sessions and incorporated into a visioning report and preliminary interpretative plan for the project. A 142-page Historic Structure Report, completed in 2018, documents the building’s social and architectural history, records existing conditions and identifies and prioritizes treatment recommendations. In January 2019, the award-winning firm Huff + Gooden Architects was hired to lead the design team for the restoration.

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 grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Projects Fund (emergency grant), Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, 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.



About

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.




News

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL Clinton Church Restoration, Inc. is seeking sealed Offers from qualified Contractors for Roof Repair and Installation of New Wood Shingles Work for the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in Great Barrington, MA. This is the second round of bidding for this work. Completed Offers and Bidder’s Qualification Forms must be received in …

National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund awards $75,000 to Clinton Church Restoration

Grant is part of $25M effort to preserve historically significant places that fully reflect the American story Great Barrington, MA (July 11, 2019) — Clinton Church Restoration, Inc. is one of 22 sites and organizations dedicated to preserving African American history to receive grant support from National Trust for Historic Preservation’sAfrican American Cultural Heritage Action …

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL

Clinton Church Restoration seeks qualified bids for Phase I roof work Clinton Church Restoration, Inc. is seeking sealed Offers and Bidder’s Qualifications Forms from interested and experienced Contractors for Phase 1A: Roof Repair and Installation of New Wood Shingles Work for the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in Great Barrington, MA. Submission of completed Offers …

Contact

CONTACT US

Mailing Address
PO Box 1075
Great Barrington, MA 01230

email: admin [at] clintonchurchrestoration [dot] org

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