Julius Rosenwald, one of the early owners of Sears, offered a $25,000 donation to cities interested in building a YMCA. The Kansas City YMCA program needed a larger building and accepted Rosenwald’s gift. The local government and the African American community raised an additional $75,000 for construction costs. The Paseo YMCA opened in 1914, just South of the 18th and Vine Jazz District, at 1824 Paseo.
On February 13, 1920, eight men, including Rube Foster and J. L. Wilkinson, met at the Paseo YMCA and created the Negro National League. The Kansas City Monarchs were among the founding members. The baseball league lasted until 1931 and the Monarchs won 4 league titles, second only to the 5 titles of the Chicago American Giants.
After the demise of the NNL, the Monarchs survived in various leagues until 1965. During their run, baseball greats Satchel Paige, Buck O’Neil, Ernie Banks, Jackie Robinson, Willard Brown, and Elston Howard played for the team.
The YMCA closed in the 1970’s and was boarded up until a push by the Negro Leagues Museum in 2006 to renovate the building into the John “Buck” O’Neil Education and Research Center. The museum is attempting to raise $15 million for the project. Some of the work, including new windows and the Monarchs mural, have already been completed.
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