GREAT BARRINGTON, MA, April 5, 2018 — William F. Galvin, Secretary of the Commonwealth and Chairman of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, has awarded a $75,000 emergency grant to Clinton Church Restoration for the installation of a new cedar shingle roof on Great Barrington’s historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church. The matching grant is a discretionary award from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund and represents a critical portion of the funding needed for the initial phase of restoration work on the historic church.

“We are grateful to Secretary Galvin and the Massachusetts Historical Commission for this emergency grant,” said Wray Gunn, chair of Clinton Church Restoration. “Generous volunteers have temporarily patched the roof twice in the past 16 months, but without a permanent fix, the building is at risk. I’ve been worried about the roof for some time.”

Architect Steve McAlister concurs. “The roof is in urgent need of repair,” he said. “The leaks have led to deterioration of the wood framing supporting the roof. Due to rot damage, the belfry is also settling toward the sanctuary and further damage could cause new structural problems.”

Under McAlister’s leadership, Clark & Green recently completed a 125-page historic structure report that includes an assessment of the building’s current condition and provides treatment recommendations for the restoration. The decision to replace the existing asphalt roof with wood shingles that reflect the building’s earliest period of existence was made in consultation with the Massachusetts Historic Commission. McAlister and preservationist Bill Finch, who worked on the historic structure report, will speak about the architectural history of the church and present the report’s findings at a public presentation to be held April 15 at 2pm at Saint James Place in Great Barrington.

The Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail. Dedicated in 1887, it is a distinctive example of late 19th-century vernacular church architecture and is historically significant for its association with author and civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois. Prior to closing in 2014, the church had served as the cultural, spiritual and political home of the local African American community for nearly 130 years. Clinton Church Restoration plans to restore and repurpose the deconsecrated church as a cultural heritage center that celebrates and honors the local African American community, the church’s history and its first female pastor, Rev. Esther Dozier, and the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois.

The Massachusetts Historical Commission is the office of the State Historic Preservation Officer and the State Archaeologist. It was established in 1963 to identify, evaluate, and protect important historical and archaeological assets of the Commonwealth.

Donations to support restoration of Clinton Church may be made online at, or by check made payable to Clinton Church Restoration and sent to P.O. Box 1075, Great Barrington, MA 01230.

(press release sent to WSBS from Wray Gunn of the Clinton Church Restoration for online and on-air use) 

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