BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s been a long road to stabilize and preserve the Michigan Street Baptist Church. And on this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day millions in new funding will help expand this important community landmark.

A symbol of perseverance on Buffalo’s east side since 1849, the Michigan Street Baptist Church has seen a lot. But, through the years the church’s structure has deteriorated.

That’s why Monday was such an important day. It was a celebration of completing restoration phase one.

“To continue to work until we have restored this entire community. Because that is what Buffalo deserves and nothing less will do,” said Lillie Wiley-Upshaw, chair, Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition. “It was a vision in our community especially when people began to know and remember and recognize the important role the members of this church played in our community, in our city, and across the nation and world.”

The church served as a last stop for freedom seekers escaping to Canada before the Civil War.

Now owned by the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition, nearly $1.3 million in state money helped stabilize the crumbling structure. Announced Monday, a $2.2 million investment from Empire State Development will expand this cultural cornerstone.

“The Niagara Movement was started at this corner, the Underground Railroad Church is at this corner,” added NYS Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “Dr. Nash, Rev. Nash who has a plethora of history in this beautiful house over here that is called the Nash House.”

A handicap-accessible two-story addition will be built, matching the landmark’s red brick.

Renderings feature a community garden, mural wall and outdoor congregation area.

Construction on the addition is expected to begin in late spring or early summer.

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Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.