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Historic Butler Street YMCA closes

8:24 PM, Dec 12, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA, Ga. -- After almost 100 years as an icon of Atlanta's African-American community, the Butler Street YMCA is closing its doors.

Today, the Butler Street YMCA just off Auburn Avenue stands almost empty, having lost its charter with the National YMCA Program.

A key factor was safety.

"It's been determined by the fire inspector it's not safe then it's not good to have men there," said Aislee Smith, Chairman of the Butler Street Community Development Corporation.

The few homeless men who still occupy the building will be moved elsewhere.

But all is not lost for the Butler YMCA

A coalition of local community leaders plan to renovate and rebuild the structure as a community center under the auspices of Butler Street Community Development.

But left behind is a rich and meaningful history.

"It's the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up; Vernon Jordan grew up; Maynard Jackson grew up; almost anybody who is anybody," said Andrew Young, former Atlanta Mayor.

And it's the place where Andrew Young first lived when he came to Atlanta to work with Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Because I was living there at the YMCA and had nothing to do at night, his secretary gave me a whole stack of his mail and I stayed up a couple of nights answering his mail," Young said.

"Although the Butler Street Y is now closed and in need of enormous renovations, it was in the new empty gymnasium that both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Andrew Young learned to play basketball, and where some of the most important decisions for the city were ever made.

"There was the Hungry Club Forum where Blacks and Whites openly discussed the issues on a once a month basis, and it deserves a lot of the credit." Young added.

Decisions that changed Atlanta, like the building of MARTA.

But the future, says Young, is more than the building.

"I'm not attached to buildings. I'm attached to movements and the movement continues and the ideals of that building continue."

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