GREAT BARRINGTON — A project that will turn a historic African-American church building into a center for African-American culture and local heritage got a critical boost Tuesday with the announcement of a $389,000 federal grant for significant repairs.

The Berkshire Eagle reports the National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grants Program awarded the money to the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, which oversees the project to restore the Clinton AME Zion Church on Elm Court.

Work for the first phase of the restoration project is expected to begin by early summer, according to Dan Bolognani, executive director of Housatonic Heritage. The Clinton Church is a site on Housatonic Heritage's African American Heritage Trail.

Bolognani said the entire restoration is expected to cost about $1.2 million, with a total of about $900,000 for construction.

The grant program is part of $12.6 million awarded to 51 projects in 24 states to preserve sites that are important to the African-American struggle for equality in the 20th century.

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