Another piece in the Michigan Avenue Heritage Corridor is falling more firmly into place, adding to Buffalo's African-American history and cultural tourism potential. The Nash House, awarded a place on the National Register of Historic Places this month, has its museum and interpretive center scheduled to open this summer.
Collaboration among sites and tourism marketers will be key in bringing together a complete cultural tour of local and national history. The Nash House joins in the historic site designation with the Colored Musicians Club and Michigan Street Baptist Church.
The designation also brings some welcome help for the early 1900s home of the Rev. J. Edward Nash, pastor of the historic Michigan Street Baptist Church from 1892 to 1953. The site now will gain eligibility for tax credits and access to grants.
Nash, who helped launch the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was the son of a freed slave. He often displayed diplomatic prowess in the battle of ideas between Booker T. Washington, who was against the NAACP, and W.E.B. DuBois, a founding member.
The house is important because it's a vital link to telling the story not only of Buffalo and Western New York, as Buffalo State College professor Felix L. Armfield said, but of telling the larger African-American story of the road to freedom.
The importance of the Nash House is an outgrowth of that movement. Nash arrived here in 1892 and continued in a tradition already well planted within the community. Buffalo's African-Americans built the first, pre-Civil War church erected by a free black community. Nash became a centerpiece of that congregation and of a burgeoning urban black community in this city.
By World War I, he had taken on a role of enormous importance for the entire community, Armfield wrote in an American Heritage magazine article supporting the listing of the Nash House on the National Register.
Nash served as a bridge between the two divided communities of black and white residents here, at a time when Jim Crow segregation was rampant. It is only appropriate that the Nash House joins the Register, along with the church and Colored Musicians Club.
The latest news adds to the support provided by a portion of a $1 million state grant announced last year for the Michigan Avenue Heritage Corridor. The Nash House is scheduled for an official opening on May 1, Nash's birthday, according to George K. Arthur, president of Michigan Street Preservation Corp., which owns the building and its contents. The board has entered a joint agreement with Buffalo State College that will help train docents and provide student internships to assist site operations.
The Nash House, with its history, artifacts, displays and landscaping, should prove to be an attraction in its own right, and a vital component of a neighborhood rich in history. It is another treasure in Buffalo's trove of cultural jewels.