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Michigan Avenue YMCA

As organizations in Buffalo, New York tried to deal with the issues of segregation and discrimination, the Michigan Avenue YMCA’s primary goal was to become a self-help organization; to meet the needs of the African American community.

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Five Years before the Michigan Ave YMCA

The Metropolitan YMCA rented 485 Michigan Avenue from St. Luke AME Zion Church until the new YMCA branch was built. By the end of 1924, the YMCA had a total of 265 members.

Between 1924 and 1927, a fundraiser was organized to raise funds for the new YMCA branch. Major contributors included Mr. & Mrs. George Mathews of the Courier Express Newspaper, Booker T. Washington Fund and Madam CJ Walker.


Change-makers of the Michigan Ave YMCA

The original Board of Managers was Chairman Rudolf Lane; John E. Brent; William H. Jackson; Justice Taylor; R.W. Cohn; C.A. Sims; Dr. I.L. Scruggs; Peter Lomax, a porter; Ninde Davis; Cornelius Ford, a livestock dealer; Dr. Jesse E. Nash, Pastor of the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church.

About Dr. I.L Scruggs

Dr. I.L. Scruggs was a medical doctor; the first African American appointed to the Board of Managers of the Metropolitan YMCA and in the United States; and served as Chairman of Health Week.

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Designed by John E. Brent

 The building was designed by John E. Brent in 1926, the first African American architect of Buffalo, the second to be commissioned to build a YMCA in the United States. 

Born in 1889 in Washington, D.C., and the the son of an architect, Brent studied carpentry and architecture at Tuskegee Institute, and then worked briefly at Howard University and for an architectural firm in New York City. He then attended what is now Drexel University in Philadelphia after receiving a full scholarship. In 1914, he became the first president of the Buffalo Branch of the NAACP. Other Buffalo projects of Brent included design work in Frederick Law Olmsted’s park system and The Buffalo Zoo.

April 15, 1928

Official opening of the Michigan Ave YMCA

The Michigan Ave YMCA officially opened on April 15, 1928, with more than 1,500 attending the opening dedication.


The first member of the new YMCA was Welton Townsend, a machine operator who later became a member of the Board. The “Y” served as the hub of all activity in the African American community till it was demolished in 1977.

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The Impact of the Michigan Ave YMCA

Click on any photo below to learn more

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