Great Barrington, Mass. (June 1, 2017) – Clinton Church Restoration Inc. has finalized its $70,000 purchase of the historic former Clinton African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church at 9 Elm Court. Community members contributed $110,000 toward the “Phase l” effort; the additional funds will provide a jump-start for costly repairs needed at the property.
Wray Gunn and Cora Portnoff, former church members and board members of the nonprofit organization that now owns the property, issued a joint statement of gratitude to the community: “We are overwhelmed with the support the Clinton Church Restoration project has received from the community. We are grateful for each and every donation that we have received.”
The former church, which has been closed for several years, was purchased from the North Eastern Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Zion Conference. However, much work remains for the next phase of the project: the building needs a new roof and must be stabilized, interior gutting and mold remediation are needed, pews and furnishings must be moved into storage, and the contents of the church and its architectural details must be catalogued. Fundraising for Phase I will begin soon, and will include special events that bring awareness and education about race, justice, and civil rights in America. Meanwhile, the project’s building committee, headed by board member and local architect Diego Gutierrez, is working with historic preservation experts, architects and contractors.
Planning for the ultimate use of the historic building and a sustainable future for the property is also underway. The organization is working with a visioning document created by interpretative master planner and designer Veronica Jackson after a public meeting and two design charrettes held in March. Jackson is known locally for her design of the interpretive panels at the W.E.B. Du Bois National Historic Site in Great Barrington. Honoring Du Bois’ legacy is among the project’s goals.
“I look forward to bringing the lives of W.E.B. Du Bois, the late Rev. Esther Dozier, and others to the forefront in this area,” said Dennis Powell, president of the Berkshire County NAACP and board member of the Clinton Church Restoration. “The African American stories in this county are rich and full of inspiration for all.”