Young Men’s Christian Association Building, Harlem Branch (now) Jackie Robinson YMCA Youth Center

STATUS Designated Individual Landmark

181 West 135th Street

ARCHITECT: John Jackson

DATE: 1918-19

STYLE: Italian Renaissance Revival

Harlem Italian Renaissance Revival Manhattan

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

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