511 Michigan St.
Hours: VIP Access: 9:00 am/General Public: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Last admittance: 4:00 pm
Photography and filming allowed (no tripods, please)
Wheelchair access: No
Public restrooms: No
Offering: Self-guided tours; Exhibits; Presentations
Visitor Experience: If these walls could talk…The Michigan Street Baptist Church is one of the most irreplaceable buildings in Buffalo. It has been a community anchor and a center for activism for African-American rights for more than 160 years. Beginning with the congregation’s active involvement in abolition and its role in the underground railroad, to the progressive leadership of Reverend J. Edward Nash, the longest serving pastor of the church – the Michigan Street Baptist Church has served an anchor for neighborhood life. An alliance of parishioners, especially Mary Talbert, with Reverend Nash brought the Michigan Street Baptist Church to national prominence. In the 20th century, the church acted as a major community center for people coming to Buffalo in the Great migration from the South. Visitors to the Church will experience a short presentation lasting approximately 10 minutes with an opportunity to walk thru the building and to experience it for themselves.
Building Description: Architecturally the building was designed and built between 1845 and 1849 by local African-American tradesmen. It is reflective of restrained vernacular traditional house of worship and is representative of the type of church used by Buffalo’s early African-American congregations. Drawing upon Romantic notions the building is transitional from the more classically inspired gable front church; it has simple and restrained brick detailing. The three-bay façade with tall round arched openings resting on a raised stone foundation draws from Norman inspired detailing. The remainder of the exterior has minimal decorative detail. The interior is laid out in a traditional protestant church format with one large rectangular auditorium, a raised platform at the east, rows of pews, and a second level gallery across the back with a narthex underneath. Interior architectural detailing is also minimal with a deep plaster cornice and broad flat board trim styles found in both Classical and Romantic inspired designs of the period.
The Period of significance for the Michigan Street Baptist Church has been determined to be from 1845- 1948. It is defined as starting with its construction date of 1845 and culminating with the repairs that occurred after the fire of 1948. It was at this period when the church had reached its zenith of architectural appearance in the middle of the twentieth century.
In 2010 ownership of the church building and property was transferred to the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition, a non-profit volunteer organization with a stated purpose of securing the necessary funds to rehabilitate, preserve and maintain the building and its legacy.