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 for the first phase of restoration work on the former Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church, which the nonprofit group plans to repurpose as a performance venue and cultural center.
“We are excited that all of this is coming together and grateful to the voters of Great Barrington for their support of this project,” said Wray Gunn, chair of Clinton Church Restoration, and longtime member of the church. “The interest in saving this historic little church has been overwhelming.”
The historic church, significant for its association with civil rights leader and native son W.E.B. Du Bois, and as a distinctive example of 19th century vernacular church architecture, has been vacant for several years and suffers from severe water damage. An historic structure report completed earlier this year by Clark & Green Architects revealed structural damage caused by a leaking roof and extreme mold and mildew associated with drainage issues in the basement. Treatment recommendations for the first phase of work include constructing of a new wood shingle roof over the entire structure, improving site and basement drainage and raising the building approximately two feet to make the church’s basement social hall usable, code-compliant space.
The CPA funds will be combined with a recent $75,000 emergency grant from the Massachusetts Historic Commission and $389,000 from the National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grants Program awarded to Housatonic Heritage for the first phase of work on the project. CPA funds are derived from a surcharge on property tax bills and are used for initiatives related to affordable housing, open space and historic preservation. Competition for funding was high with close to $900 million in requests for this year.
Dedicated in in 1887, the church was the spiritual, cultural and political home of the local African American community for nearly 130 years. It is a site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail and was entered into the National Register of Historic Places ten years ago this month.