The Wabash Avenue YMCA was a major social and educational center in the Black Metropolis, the center of Chicago's African American culture in the early 1900s. Funds for its construction came from Julius Rosenwald, chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Company, who was known for his support of YMCAs throughout the country. Residents of the community also raised over $20,000. Soon after its completion in 1913 the YMCA became a center for the assistance of newly arrived Southerners, offering educational and job training sessions and a housing program.
Designed by Robert C. Berlin, the five-story brown-pressed brick building is trimmed with buff Bedford limestone. The YMCA spans five bays wide on Wabash Avenue and 10 bays long on 38th Street. The interior houses an auditorium, a swimming pool, meeting rooms, classrooms, and residential quarters. In 1945, an addition was constructed onto the south side of the building.
The Wabash Avenue YMCA was closed in the 1970s as businesses and residents moving out of the district signaled the decline of the neighborhood. In four-year, $9 million restoration was completed in 2000, and the YMCA was reopened to serve the surrounding neighborhood.
The Wabash Avenue YMCA is located at 3763 S. Wabash Ave. and is open to the public. Call 773-285-0020 for further information.
Chicago's Black Metropolis, which the Wabash Avenue YMCA is part of, is the subject of an online-lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Register program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.
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