The National Trust will come up with a plan to restore the house and "ensure that this symbol of Simone's early life and legacy will endure for generations to come."
"As an artist, it's quite moving to be able to step in and support another artist whose work has meant so much to me from a creative and political standpoint," said Adam Pendleton, one of four co-owners of the house, in a conference-call interview Tuesday.
Pendleton is one of four New York-based artists who bought the Western North Carolina home last year. Restoring the 660-square-foot house will cost an estimated $250,000. After that, it could become a workspace for artists, Pendleton said.
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"I can't think of a better way to do that than to preserve this physical site where people can come visit, engage and interact with and get the sense of what made Nina Simone who she was," Pendleton said.
Simone was born Eunice Waymon in the Tryon house in 1933. She quickly developed into a prodigy pianist, leaving Tryon and the Jim Crow South at a young age and rarely returning. Simone went on to a noted career as a multi-genre singer and activist, known for fiery songs like 1964's civil-rights anthem "Mississippi Goddam." She died in France in 2003 at age 70.
In April, she was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with her latter-day kindred spirit Mary J. Blige doing the honors.
But the structure where Simone grew up fell into disrepair as it changed ownership. When it went on the market in late 2016, Pendleton and the three other artists paid $95,000 to buy it sight-unseen, closing the deal in March 2017.
"I had not seen the physical house before," Pendleton said. "I can't tell you what an incredible moment it was to pull into Tryon, drive up the hill and see it sitting there. It was quite special. It feels like it's from another era, but it connects the past to the present."
The Simone designation is part of a $25 million campaign launched by the National Trust to increase African-American representation in its National Treasure designations.
The Simone house is the 87th place in the country to be declared a National Treasure, alongside structures like the Astrodome in Texas and Nashville's Music Row. It's one of the few places dedicated to African-American women, a list that includes North Carolina's other entrant: the Pauli Murray house in Durham, where activist Murray (the first female African-American Episcopal priest) grew up in the early years of the 20th century.
As to what Simone's house might be someday, Pendleton is more interested in developing it as a workspace for artists than as a museum.
"It's exciting to think that Nina's house could be a place where artists come to work, write or otherwise make use of it in whatever way they want," Pendleton said. "I can't think of a better way to support her legacy than to use it to support the work of other artists."
David Menconi: 919-829-4759 or @NCDavidMenconi