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 in Great Barrington is a distinctive example of 19th century, vernacular, church architecture. Dedicated in 1887, the church served as the spiritual, cultural and political home for the local African American Community for nearly 130 years. It is historically significant for its association with author and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois, a Great Barrington native who has been called “the premier architect of the civil rights movement in the United States.” The church is the only extant building associated with his formative years.
When the Clinton AME Zion Church, unused for several years and structurally comprised, was put up for sale in 2016, there was community concern that the building would be lost to demolition and development. In late 2016, the nonprofit group Clinton Church Restoration was formed to save, preserve and repurpose the now deconsecrated church. They rallied to raise funds and purchased the property in 2017. Their vision is to have the site serve as an African American heritage and visitor center that will interpret the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois and tell the story of the church’s 130-year history, its first female pastor and the local African American community.
Given the building’s structural issues and ongoing deterioration, costs are substantial to complete necessary stabilization work as well as move forward with plans for future use. If the stabilization is not completed, an important touchstone of African American history and culture in Massachusetts could be lost.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church. “This small church has a powerful and important story to tell and has been a center of the African American community for 130 years. The efforts and dedication of Clinton Church Restoration are to be applauded and we look forward to working with them to ensure that this landmark building endures to tell its story and inspire new ones for many generations to come.”
Eugenie Sills of Clinton Church Restoration adds: “Clinton Church Restoration is honored by Preservation Massachusetts’ recognition of the Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church as one of the state’s most endangered historic resources. The church, which embodies the spiritual, political and social history of the African American community in and around Great Barrington, was a place of great significance to W.E.B. Du Bois, and this recognition, in the 150th anniversary year of his birth, will go a long way in helping us achieve our goal to save, preserve and repurpose the property.”
The other endangered resources listed in 2018 are: Arlington High School (Arlington), Attleboro Switch Tower (Attleboro), JR Alley Brewery (Mission Hill, Boston), The Pillars & The Columns (Dennis), Calf Pasture Pump House (Dorchester), GAR Hall (Lynn), Historic Stonewalls (Massachusetts), Echo Bridge Railings (Newton/Needham), and Town Hall & Auditorium (New Salem).
The 2018 Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources list will be publicly recognized at the Believe in Preservation event, hosted this year at Nixon Peabody LLP, 100 Summer Street, Boston on November 7th. For more event details, and more information on the Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources Program, visit www.preservationmass.org or call 617-723-3383.
About the ‘Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources’ List
Since 1993, the list of most endangered historic resources has become an effective tool for preservationists to focus statewide attention on the condition of individual historic properties and their importance to communities. Of the more than 220 historic resources designated as endangered since the list’s inception in 1993, 91 have been classified as saved, 31 have been lost while many more are either progressing or continue to face threats.
This year’s list was chosen by a committee from nominations submitted by groups and individuals concerned with local preservation issues throughout the state. Submissions are judged by several criteria, including their historic significance, the extent of the threat and the community’s commitment to preserving the resource.
Founded in 1985, Preservation Massachusetts is the statewide non-profit organization that actively promotes the preservation of historic buildings and landscapes as a positive force for economic development and the retention of community character.