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$117,000 grant will support Clinton Church Restoration and Du Bois center in Great Barrington

The Clinton AME Zion Church and kiosk (copy)

An interpretive display installed in May sits before the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church at 9 Elm Court in Great Barrington. Community members formed Clinton Church Restoration to rehabilitate the historic Black church, which W. E. B. Du Bois attended as a child, and repurpose it as a heritage site and visitor center. A new grant awarded this week brings the total raised to $2 million, though more is needed. 

GREAT BARRINGTON — The latest round of funding for an African American cultural heritage center downtown will bring the total raised to nearly $2 million, though it could take up to another $5 million to complete.

MassDevelopment and the Mass Cultural Council announced Tuesday the agencies are awarding $117,000 to Clinton Church Restoration, which is planning the center at the site of the former historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church on Elm Court.

The grant is one of 11 going to Berkshire County organizations, as part of a total of $13 million to support 115 cultural facilities projects across the state.

For Clinton Church Restoration, the money will go toward finishing architectural and engineering plans, the nonprofit said in a statement Wednesday. The grant is the second from the Cultural Facilities Fund.

Clinton Church plans to renovate the historic building to create a downtown visitor center with museum-quality exhibits and programming dedicated to preserving the legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois as well as Berkshire County’s African American history.

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The church was built in 1887 and was central to African American life in the area.

The cultural, political and religious life there influenced Du Bois, a Great Barrington native.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $5 million to $7 million, said Eugenie Sills, interim executive director of the project. Multiple grants and other fundraising has pulled in about $2 million so far.

Sills said it might be a stretch to complete the project in 2025, but she did not dismiss it entirely.

“We still have a lot of fundraising to do and several phases of design and construction work ahead,” she added. “And, of course, there are the uncertainties of COVID.”

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871.

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