Among its important qualities, that the 135th Street Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), built in 1918-19, was one of the first African-American YMCA buildings constructed in New York City and became the center of intellectual and social life for African Americans in the first half of the 20th century. It was designed by John Jackson, a specialist in YMCA buildings, in the Italian Renaissance Revival style.
The building has a high base with alternating arched and rectangular openings and is surmounted by a cornice bearing the inscription “Young Men’s Christian Association.” The arched windows at the second story and an arcade at the sixth story further enhance the design.
African-American YMCA’s were the direct result of the national organization’s policy of racial segregation from its beginnings in the United States in 1851 until 1946. Though excluded from white YMCAs, African Americans were encouraged to form separate branches, which became autonomous community centers.
STATUS Designated Individual Landmark
“I don’t know what the City would be without HDC. [They] testified before LPC time after time and helped us focus on the right issues. We would not be an historic district without HDC! ”
Doreen Gallo: DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance
“Use HDC as a resource because they know what they are doing and can offer advice on how to go about creating a district from every front: architectural, political, LPC, and the media. I had floundered prior to my involvement with this invaluable organization.”
Fern Luskin: Lamartine Place Historic District; Friends of Lamartine Place & Gibbons Underground Railroad Site
“HDC provided guidance and shared information during that process—we knew which Council members were going one way or another and we changed a few minds. I don’t think NoHo would have had as cohesive a district had it not been for HDC’s aid.”
Zella Jones: NoHo Historic District; NoHo East; and NoHo Extension
“I remember Richard saying at a meeting, we have someone here from HDC, Nadezhda Williams, Director of Preservation and Research, to help us. She said to us, ‘You are not the only ones going through this.’ HDC included us in an enormous community”
Erika Petersen: West End Preservation Society