Clinton Church receives federal grant of nearly $ 500,000 for restoration efforts

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Former Clinton AME Zion Church in Great Barrington received a grant of $ 495,322 from the National Park Service to continue restoration work on the historic building. Photo courtesy of the restoration of Clinton Church

GREATER BARRINGTON – The effort to save the Clinton AME church received another shot recently, as the nonprofit working with advocates for the church received a federal government grant of nearly $ 500,000.

The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area has received a grant of $ 495,322 from the National Park Service to continue restoration work on the historic Clinton AME Zion Church, Clinton Church Restoration said in a written statement this week .

The grant is part of the Parks Service’s $ 15.7 million African American Civil Rights Grant program, awarded last week to 54 projects in 21 states, which also included restoration efforts at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and at Booker T. Washington High School. Auditorium building in Columbia, South Carolina.

Dan Bologneni. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Berkshires

“Once again, we are delighted to have been able to help this important cultural and historical institution,” said Dan Bolognani, executive director of Housatonic Heritage, which helped secure three National Park Service grants for the restoration of the Clinton Church, including a $ 50,000 grant last year from the Home Office’s National Park Service. “We are delighted to be part of its renewal in the life of our community and to play a pivotal role in the telling of its story. “

Based in Salisbury, Connecticut, Housatonic Heritage serves 29 cities in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The nonprofit organization, created by an act of Congress in 2006, helps communities and other nonprofit organizations identify, interpret and develop the region’s historical, cultural and natural resources for education and benefit. of current and future generations.

Coupled with funding of $ 200,000 approved at this year’s city meeting by the Great Barrington Community Preservation Committee, the federal grant will be used to continue the work of the second phase on structural stabilization and works. repair on the Clinton Church building.

In December 2016, Sage Radachowsky and Steve MacLay prepared a tarp to protect the roof of the historic Clinton AME Zion Church from further water damage. Photo provided

Significant damage discovered during roofing work in 2020 dramatically increased both the cost and duration of the restoration, Clinton Church officials said. The church has raised around $ 2 million so far, but the project is ultimately expected to cost between $ 5 million and $ 7 million.

“We have made good progress in stabilizing the building, but we still have a long way to go,” said Clinton Church Restoration President Wray Gunn Sr. “This grant from the National Park Service will be d ‘a great help in the restoration of this important African American monument.

Clinton Church Restoration was formed in late 2016 by community members concerned about the fate of the church, which had been desecrated and brought to market by the AME Zion conference.

See the video below of the ceremony marking the launch of the construction phase from Clinton AME Zion Church in October 2019. Speakers included Dennis Powell, CCR Vice President and President of the Berkshire Chapter of the NAACP, and Eugenie Sills, Acting Executive Director of the CCR:

The church had served as a cultural, spiritual, and political home for the African American community for nearly 130 years and was vacant and in dire condition after its final closure in 2014.

Its first congregation is said to have been a formative influence in the life of legendary scholar and civil rights leader WEB Du Bois, who returned to Great Barrington to speak in the shingle-style building in 1894. As a child and young man, Du Bois attended primarily to services across Main Street at the First Congregational Church.

Located at 9 Elm Court in Great Barrington town center, the church is a distinctive example of 19th century vernacular church architecture. It is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Massachusetts Register of Historic Places. In 2018, Preservation Massachusetts added the church to its list of Massachusetts’ most endangered historic resources, according to Housatonic Heritage.

In addition to the funds mentioned above, Clinton Church Restoration has received a number of grants since acquiring the church, including:

For a practical guide to past and recent Clinton Church efforts, see “It’s Not That Simple: What’s Happening with the Clinton Church Restoration?” This is a bi-weekly column by Ed Abrahams and Pedro Pachano (co-chair of the CCR construction committee) on the city’s problems and based on their WSBS radio show. Click here to listen to the WSBS podcast. Clinton Church Restoration Acting Executive Director Eugenie Sills was the guest.

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