photo 2 of the harlem branch of the ymca New York Architecture Images-Harlem and the Heights

Harlem Branch YMCA Landmark


James C. Mackenzie


180 West 135th Street




neo-Georgian style details


clad in red brick




photo 2 of the harlem branch of the ymca
From its founding in Boston in 1851 until 1946, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) maintained an official policy of racial segregation. After the Civil War, African-Americans were encouraged to form separate branches, with most branches founded in the late 19th century. Built in 1931-32 as a successor to the "Colored Men's Branch" of the YMCA on West 53rd Street, the construction of this eleven-story building clad in red brick with neo-Georgian style details was designed and supervised by architect James C. Mackenzie, Jr. according to plans prepared by the Architectural Bureau of the National Council of the YMCA. The tower of this handsome structure maintains a major presence in the Harlem skyline today. The Harlem YMCA was designated a New York City landmark in February 1998; it was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Besides providing clean, safe and affordable rooms, residents and members can utilize the swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna, weightlifting and crafts rooms. To encourage youth participation in sports, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella of the Brooklyn Dodgers coached boys in athletics and calisthenics in 1948. The Harlem YMCA, a prominent recreational and cultural center, also served as a well-respected showcase for local talent. The stage of the "Little Theatre" was the site of Cicely Tyson's professional acting debut; other performers include James Earl Jones, Isabel Sanford, Esther Rolle, Alvin Ailey, Sidney Poitier, Eartha Kitt, Roscoe Lee Brown and Danny Glover. This branch of the "Y" garnered national attention in 2001 when former President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, became members.



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