Vicksburg’s historic Junius Ward Johnson YMCA for sale for $400,000

Published 11:26 am Thursday, July 6, 2023

The owner of the historic Junius Ward Johnson YMCA building, 821 Clay St., has put the structure up for sale.

Michael Hayes, of Nashville, purchased the building in April 2000. At the time, he planned to convert the building into 27 one-and-two-bedroom apartments for those 55 and older. Later on, the building was set to house a branch of the Farish Street Blues Museum, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the history of Blues music along U.S. Highway 61, commonly known as “Blues Highway.”

However, Hayes said, the building is in need of more repairs than the museum’s funding can cover.

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“The building is in the name of Farish Street Blues Museum,” Hayes said. “We’ve got the museum ready to put back in as soon as we’ve got someone to help us fix it back up. Or someone can donate funds to the blues museum and we can fix it up ourselves.”

While the listing process is still underway, Hayes said the building — and its one-acre footprint — has an asking price of $400,000. That asking price includes a metal roof designed to mimic the appearance of the building’s original Spanish Tile.

“The main part of the building is dry and ready for someone to come in and find a use for it,” Hayes said.

Although he couldn’t provide an estimate for repairs and renovations needed to bring the building back to functionality, Hayes went on to say he hopes the building would eventually become a multi-use space, such as apartments, a boutique hotel or office space — and that the Farish Street Blues Museum would like to occupy a corner of the building.

He added that the building will need all-new electrical wiring, plumbing and more to bring it up to code.

Those interested in purchasing the building can call Hayes at 615-481-6997.

History of the Junius Ward Johnson YMCA 

The Clay Street YMCA was built in 1923 and was gifted to the city of Vicksburg by Fannie Willis Johnson in honor of her late husband, Junius Ward Johnson, for whom the facility was named.

Located at the corner of Clay and Monroe streets, the YMCA was a state-of-the-art facility when it was built with its indoor pool, gym and youth and fitness program offerings. Initially, it was geared toward boys and men. On the front side of the building, one can still see over the door where it reads “men’s entrance” and to the left over what is now a window, “boys entrance.”

The building had 66 dormitory rooms when it was first constructed, but later a third floor was added allowing for 33 additional rooms.

Fannie Johnson, a descendant of Vicksburg founder the Rev. Newitt Vick, took ownership of the building — so much so that she came in one day, looked at a blank space on the wall, and said, “I know just what will go there.”

She later returned with a grandfather clock from her home on Washington Street to fill the space.

The YMCA still has the Victorian-style clock in its collections.

Built by Underwood Contracting Corporation of New Orleans for $184,286, the building was designed in the style of Classical Revival with some Beaux Arts detailing.

No one has occupied the building since 2006.