Clinton Church awarded ‘Most Endangered’ historic listing

GREAT BARRINGTON — The Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church on Elm Court received the K. Julie McCarthy Community Spirit Award and recognized the addition of the church to the Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources List.

“We’re sort of here to celebrate being declared in a really bad state,” Select Board member Ed Abrahams joked while giving the welcoming remarks.

Representatives from Preservation Massachusetts, members of the Clinton Church Restoration Project, and community members turned out for the presentation. The award was granted at Preservation Massachusetts’ annual Believe in Preservation event in Boston in November.

Jim Igoe, president and CEO of Preservation Massachusetts and Erin Kelly, associate director of Preservation Massachusetts came down to Great Barrington for a site visit, braving single-digit temperatures.

“We were really pleased when — we meaning the Clinton Church core team — when Preservation Massachusetts invited us to Boston last fall to be honored and then said ‘We would also like to come to Great Barrington to share this with your community,’ because this project as you all know is a community project,” said Eugenie Sills, interim executive director for Clinton Church Restoration.
The church was dedicated on Feb. 6, 1886, four months after the cornerstone was laid in October of 1885. That dedication followed nearly 20 years of fundraising by the community. The Berkshire Courier reported that the dedication was heavily attended, filled to overflowing. Many were unable to find seats, even with a double row of chairs having been placed in the aisle.

“Two years ago, as Ed said, Clinton Church Restoration was born out of another community effort: concern for the fate of this important site,” Sills said.

More than 400 donors and volunteers contributed to the effort, led by Wray Gunn, who serves as chairman for Clinton Church Restoration, Sills said. She also thanked town politicians, including Abrahams, as well as local media and others who have helped to illuminate the effort to restore and repurpose the church. Sills noted the feeling of community when town voters approved $100,000 from Community Preservation Act funds to go to the church’s restoration.

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