NAACP Leader's House For Sale
By Lauren Mayer | Online Only | Jan. 28, 2009
The former home of NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson in Great Barrington, Mass., has been on the market since last spring, prompting fears that a new owner could tear it down. A writer, songwriter, and civil rights activist, Johnson spent his summers in the Berkshires at his home known as Five Acres.
Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1871, and went on to become the first African American admitted to the bar in Florida. After spending time in the Berkshires with friends such as W.E.B DuBois, he and his wife bought the property in 1926 and converted the barn into a residence. He also built a small cabin behind the main house where he often retreated to write.
"Part of the charm of the house is that there is history involved," says local real estate agent Will Brinker. However, so far there has been little interest in the property. Great Barrington lacks a preservation ordinance that could protect the house, listed at $399,000.
Some neighbors are becoming concerned about the future of the Johnson House. People would love to see the property preserved, says Michele Barker, circuit rider at Preservation Massachusetts and field representative for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The purchase of the home "by a buyer who is not sensitive [could result] in a potential teardown," she says. Her group has great "concern to find the right buyer" who will keep the house intact.
Brinker thinks that in the current recession, people would "love to see something done but don't have time, effort, or money to do anything meaningful" with the house.
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