(Photos: Buffalo News)
Buffalo, New York is home to a time capsule of the city's black history with the incredible preservation of the home of an influential member of the African American community, Rev. J. Edward Nash. Rev. Nash was born in Occoquan, Virginia in 1868 to former slaves and went on to become a highly-respected pastor of Buffalo's Michigan Avenue Baptist Church from 1892 to 1953.
In 1925, Rev. Nash married 30-year old Buffalo native, Frances Jackson when he was 57 years old. Their first child, Jesse Jr. was born a year later and the family lived on the second floor of their home, which was then located at 36 Potter Street, now Nash Street, just east of downtown. Rev. Nash rented out the first floor of the home for extra income while he became a tireless advocate for the black community. Historian Barbara Seals Nevergold says as legendary pastor of the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, Nash was considered "a God-sent preacher, a hard-nosed negotiator, a skilled facilitator, a reliable expediter and a stalwart advocate" for local African Americans. Nash was credited with bringing branches of the Urban League and the NAACP to the city, as well as working closely with local officials to improve life in the community. That's why, according to the Michigan Street Preservation Corporation, Nash's perfectly preserved home is considered a local treasure to be shared as the Nash House Museum. The museum, which displays wax figures of Rev. and Mrs. Nash, says the family hosted many nationally known African American guests in the home, where ideas for Buffalo's black community were first "conceptualized, discussed, and set in motion."
Rev. Nash's wife lived in the home until she passed away in 1987. Other occupants over the years left many rooms closed off, virtually untouched since Nash's death in 1957. According to the preservation group's website, when they first toured the home, "Rev. Nash's personal quarters and study, it was as though they had entered a time capsule, a time capsule that had been left by Rev. Nash himself." All furniture, his typewriter, desk, papers and books were left undisturbed. The home's pre-WWII era African American furnishings were in excellent condition, which motivated groups to protect this valuable piece of the 20th century history for the Buffalo community. The J. Edward Nash Papers have been catalogued and microfilmed and are part of local and state-wide archive collections. Currently, efforts are moving forward to restore the historic neighborhood surrounding the Nash House Museum.