|Butler St. YMCA
The Black City Hall of Atlanta
20-24 Butler Street (now Jesse Hill Street)
Sweet Auburn Historic District
Architect: Hentz, Reid and Adler
Builder: Alexander Hamilton
Architectural Style: Although the façade has
been slightly altered, the building still retains many elements
of the elegant Georgian Revival style.
Original Use: This building became a center of social
life on the Avenue by providing recreation and supervised
activity space for younger blacks and a meeting place for
older blacks. Many of Atlanta's young black men belonged to
the Y and used it as a recreation center. Vernon Jordon and
Martin Luther King, Jr. are leaders
influenced as youths by their membership here.The building
contains over 10,000 square feet and houses 48 dormatory rooms,
7 class rooms, a small auditorium, a gymnasium, a swimming
pool, shower baths, a café and restrooms. It is the
only minority YMCA in America that has been allowed to operate
independently without being a branch.
Readaptive Use: Continues functioning as a YMCA.
1894- JS Brandon begins plans to organize a Young
Mens Christain Association. A group of young people meet
in the basement of the Wheat Street
Baptist Church to formalize the group. Brandon is elected
president and his sister-in-law, Hattie Askidge, is elected
organist. The dominant activity during the early years was
song and prayer on Sunday afternoons.
1909- W.J. Trent is elected president of the YMCA and
begins a campaign drive to raise money to erect a headquarters.
1918- The YMCA property on Auburn Avenue is sold for
$7,200.00 and property is purchased on Butler Street for $10,609.00.
Built by Alexander D. Hamilton, the new structure cost $115,000
and contained over 10,000 square feet.
1920- May. Major Robert Russa Moton, principal of Tuskegee
Institute, dedicates the Butler Street YMCA.
1922- The Phillis Wheatly YWCA launches its first membership
drive with a goal of 2,000.00.
1942- The YMCA initiates The Hungry Club Forum,
which began as a secret organization and then became openly
recognized and extremely effective forum between black and
white leaders. The clubs motto is: "Food for taste and
food for thought for those who hunger for information and
association ". Hungry Club luncheons are held at the
1946- Formation of the Atlanta Negro Voters League
(ANVL) by Attorney A.T. Walden (Democrat) and John
Wesley Dobbs (Republican). The Butler Street YMCA was
their regular meeting facility.
1946- All Citizens Registration Committee is
formed to register and unite all the African American votes.
They met regularly at the Butler StreetYMCA.
1990's- Addition is built across the street.
The Circle Be Unbroken?
NARRATOR: The Auburn Avenue district also contained
another important black community institution, the Butler
W. L. CALLOWAY: It had, I would say, the largest assembly
for organizations to meet except in a church, and more organizations
were founded in the Butler Street YMCA than in anywhere else.
NARRATOR: Jesse Hill (President of Atlanta
Life Insurance Company and community leader)...
JESSE HILL: In fact the Butler Street "Y"
was the black city hall of Atlanta. That's where the first
Police precinct was. The Atlanta Negro Voters League
was there and there was an organization called the All
Citizen Registration Committee with C. A. Bacote.
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