NAACP Leader's House For Sale

The former home of James Weldon Johnson in Great Barrington, Mass.

Credit: Will Brinker

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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Submitted by Anonymous at: August 24, 2010
The cabin was there long long before JWJ. Today it is in desperate need of repair and soon it will be gone along the way so will the history made here by James Weldon Johnson. Sincerely, Tom Warner

Submitted by angel at: February 18, 2010
How is it, cause i live in the niebhorhood

Submitted by Karen Ann at: February 10, 2010
I, too, live in a town without a preservation ordinance and see worthy Revolutionary, Victorian, and Edwardian -era buildings demolished or remuddled all the time. So sad.

Submitted by andi at: February 10, 2010
This article says he bought the house is 1926, but when was the structure built?