Mathews Architecture

Nina Simone's Childhood Home

Eunice Kathleen Waymon, known professionally as Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop (Wikipedia). She grew up in Tryon, NC.

Mathews Architecture was engaged to develop professional recommendations for undertaking exterior stabilization of the Nina Simone Childhood Home in Tryon, North Carolina. It is important to appreciate that the exterior of this National Treasure has been almost entirely altered since Nina Simone resided there.

There has been wholesale modification of all exterior openings, with new stud framing and new non-historic windows and “found” interior doors installed.

The exterior cladding of the house is a combination of heart-pine clapboards, salvaged in 2007 from a church of a similar age in an adjacent NC community, and new pine clapboards installed by Hope Crew members in May of 2019. Some areas of the exterior wall also show contemporary OSB sheathing behind the clapboards.

The entire front porch and stairs were also completely reconstructed in 2007. We have found no photos to show what they looked like originally.
The structure beneath the floor was also reconstructed, with new beams, bricks, piers and miscellaneous support posts.

The brick chimney, assumed to be original, has been reduced in height, parged with a cementitious stucco, and topped with a metal chimney cap. It bears little resemblance to the chimney in the only known photograph of the house contemporaneous with Nina Simone’s residence, approximately c. 1940.

And, finally, a contemporary 5-V sheet metal panel roof was installed over and nailed through what we believe to be the original metal shingle roofing. We believe this nailing has further compromised the original metal shingles beyond the obvious and extensive rusting and metal loss that is visible in the small areas of metal shingles exposed on the south side of the house.

Given these findings, the exterior work we propose will re-create the original exterior appearance of the house as closely as the evidence we have collected allows. Where we have no information to provide historic guidance, we have made recommendations based on historic precedents for houses with a similar historic context, construction and age. We recognize that some existing conditions and features have become part of the iconic image of the house; we recommend that they remain, as they also provide an increased level of building code compliance and safety for visitors.

The exterior is not a preservation project; rather, it’s a rehabilitation aimed at capturing the original character of the house. The future interior rehabilitation will be the real preservation project, as more of what we believe to be original to Nina Simone’s childhood life there is extant.
Restoring Nina Simone's Childhood Home
Close-up view of the original pressed metal roofing
Front of the house following the initial priming and painting by the Hope Crew.
The main interior room of the house.
The exterior after decades of weathering and deterioration.