GREAT BARRINGTON (January 16, 2019) — Clinton Church Restoration has announced the hiring of Huff + Gooden Architects as the project architect for the restoration and adaptive reuse of the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in Great Barrington. The New York City-based firm, headed by architect Mario Gooden, is one of the few African American architectural firms in the country. Joining Gooden on the design team is historic preservation architect John A. James, architect and historian Mabel O. Wilson of Studio &, and landscape architect Walter J. Hood of Hood Design Studio. Other team members include Silman Associates for structural engineering; Landmark Facilities Group for mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineering; Berkshire Engineering for civil engineering and Accu-Cost for cost estimating services.

“We are thrilled to engage Huff + Gooden and their esteemed team of architects and engineers,” said Clinton Church Restoration board chair Wray Gunn. “They have outstanding qualifications in the fields of architecture, historic preservation and engineering and they bring decades of experience designing spaces that tell the rich stories of African American heritage.”

Clinton Church Restoration, which purchased the historic National Register property in 2017, plans to restore and repurpose it as a heritage site and visitor center dedicated to interpreting the Berkshires rich African American history and the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer and native son W.E.B. Du Bois. A performance space and fellowship hall will provide space for the community to come together to enjoy the arts, partake of educational programming, and learn about civic engagement, activism and social justice. Huff + Gooden was one of the firms responding to the nonprofit’s Request for Proposal for historic preservation, architectural design and engineering services.

“We conducted a formal, qualifications-based process that included interviews with three excellent design and engineering teams,” said building committee chair Diego Gutierrez. “We were especially impressed with the experience of the Huff + Gooden team, and their forward thinking approach to design and process.”

The team has extensive experience working on African American museums, cultural centers and historic sites, including the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, NYC’s Schomburg Center and Studio Museum in Harlem, African Meeting House on Nantucket, Samuel Harrison House in Pittsfield, the International African American Museum in Charleston, SC and chronicling the history of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Huff + Gooden Architects is a certified Minority-owned Business Enterprise and five of the eight firms comprising the team are African American- and/or women-owned and led.

“The rich and storied history of the former Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church not only chronicles the presence of African Americans in the Berkshires from the 18th century to the present—their religious practices, cultural practices and their lives—but its history is part of the thread in the formation of American culture, society and life,” said Gooden. “Hence, this is an American story that like many others has largely gone unrecognized for the varied ways African Americans played pivotal roles in key national and international events and made significant contributions to our culture. Blacks in western Massachusetts as well as the founders of the Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church spent their lives defining the tenets of liberty and democracy, hoping to claim the ‘unalienable rights’ our founding fathers deemed ‘self-evident.’ It’s a privilege and an honor for our team to be entrusted with helping to bring this story to the light of American and architectural history.”

“Not only have these architects worked on distinguished projects dedicated to African American heritage, they have a deep understanding of the significance of these spaces and the cultural issues they embody,” said Dennis Powell, vice chair of the Clinton Church Restoration, and president of the Berkshire Chapter of the NAACP. “It is noteworthy that the Clinton Church’s history as a community institution created by African Americans will continue.”

Gooden, who will serve as the prime consultant and principal in charge, is the lead design architect for the expansion and renovation of the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. He is a Professor of Practice at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation of Columbia University and author of Dark Space: Architecture, Representation, Black Identity, which examines the construction of African American identity and representation through architecture.

After an initial kick off meeting, Gooden and his team will focus on replacement of the building’s leaking roof and repair of related structural damage. Funding for this stabilization work has been secured and is expected to begin this winter.

This project is being supported in part by an African American Civil Rights Grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area. Additional funding comes from the Citizens of Great Barrington through the Community Preservation Act, and an emergency matching grant from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund through the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Francis Galvin, Chairman. The property is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Donations to support the restoration effort can be made online by going here or by sending a check payable to Clinton Church Restoration, Inc. and mailed to P.O. Box 1075, Great Barrington, MA 01230. Anyone wishing to receive occasional email updates on the project may sign up for the email list on the website or send their email address to admin@clintonchurchrestoration.org.

(press release and photos sent to WSBS from Clinton Church Restoration for online/on-air use)