DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – More than $500,000 will go to two historic buildings in Dayton with a connection to the civil rights movement.

The National Park Service is awarding the former Fifth Street YMCA in Dayton $53,930.

The building currently belongs to Miami Valley Housing Opportunities CEO as their Opportunity Center.

“We make it work, but, you know, let’s face it, technology gets better all the time, and so if we can do some major improvements, that would be great,” Miami Valley Housing Opportunities Inc. CEO Debbie Watts Robinson said.

Robinson said the Fifth Street Y was built in the 1920s because African Americans couldn’t stay in the downtown YMCA.

The history of the building has ties to Booker T. Washington, holding significant parts in both the civil rights movement, and hearts in the community.

“It has a rich history, people can tell you all kinds of stories, the fact that their parents met at that Y, a lot of people learned how to swim at that Y, a lot of people were baptized at that Y, it was a mainstay in the Black community for many years,” Robinson said.

The money awarded to the YMCA building will go to the initial planning stages for improvements they want to make in the building, including developing plans for a new HVAC system and roof.

Along with improvements, Gem City Hilltop Community Development and Housing Inc. will receive $498,030 to improve the Linden Community and Recreation Center in Dayton.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced $1.4 million was awarded across Ohio so these buildings can continue to serve as a symbol in the fight for equality for years to come.

“By working with our National Park Service to honor the key sites and moments of the civil rights movement, we are preserving the legacy and struggle of those who risked their lives to demand full and equal participation in our democracy,” Brown said in a statement Thursday. “It’s important to learn from their stories, and the Civil Rights Network is one small way we can continue educating future generations of Ohioans.” 

Miami Valley Housing Opportunities plans to apply for a second grant next year that would be used to complete the improvement projects they are planning.

“The building’s full, we use it well,” Robinson said. “We’re very proud of the building, and we’re extremely proud of the history of the building.”