Skip to main content

The YMCA in Chicago



People play games and socialize on a rooftop garden at the YMCA at 826 S. Wabash Ave.
Published by Curt Teich & Co., Inc. of Chicago.

Numerous vintage postcards depict images that reinforce the lyrics “It’s fun to stay at the YMCA” by the band the Village People. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) group printed postcards with images of YMCA Chicago facilities that show people dancing, playing games and sleeping in private rooms that are decorated with themes.

One postcard in particular shows the Marine Room, which is decorated with an ocean theme. Rates for the Marine Room and other rooms ranged from 75 cents to $2.50 per day in the 1930s. Many YMCA facilities also offered weekly rates to lodgers.

The city’s first YMCA building, Farwell Hall, opened in 1867 and is named after its benefactor, John V. Farwell, who was a dry-goods merchant, according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago. The building had a library and a parlor for its members, but lacked dormitories and a gymnasium.

The construction of a new 13-story YMCA building on LaSalle Street in 1893 included a bowling alley and a swimming pool. And a YMCA hotel opened in 1916 in the south loop. It also served young immigrants and offered English classes and job placement services. Another YMCA building was constructed in 1913 on South Wabash Ave. to serve the African-American community.

The Lawson YMCA, at 30 W. Chicago Ave. had 650 rooms.
Published by Curt Teich & Co., Inc. of  Chicago.


A huge expansion program in the 1920s focused on constructing YMCA buildings in almost every neighborhood. In 1931, the association dropped the requirement for affiliation with the evangelical church and allowed women to join and stay at the facilities. The church, however, remained central to the organization until 1947, when leaders changed their policy to include people of all customs and religions.

Many people would stay at the YMCA when visiting from other towns, while others lived at the facilities that provided people with long-term stay rentals. These facilities helped fill a specific housing gap at the time, as more “men only” and “women and children only” hotels began to disappear over the years and eventually turn into upscale housing.

Most YMCA groups around the country today mainly provide athletic and learning facilities. There are some YMCA groups, however, that still rent small rooms, such as the Irving Park YMCA of Metro Chicago. Rates there start at $410 per month. Individuals who have been convicted of felonies or sexual offenses are not allowed to stay at the facility.

So whether you’re living in the inner city or the wealthy suburbs, a YMCA is probably in your neighborhood and is still a fun place, regardless if one stays there or just uses its facilities for a few hours.



The YMCA on Wabash Ave. had 2,000 fireproof rooms.
Published by Curt Teich & Co., Inc., of Chicago.



The Marine Room at the YMCA at 826 S. Wabash Ave. is walking distance to the beach.
Published by Curt Teich & Co., Inc., of Chicago.

The YMCA on Wabash once offered rooms for transient men before allowing women.
Published by E.C. Kropp Co. of Milwaukee.



This very old postcard is believed to show an image of the YMCA
constructed on LaSalle Street in 1893.
Published by Kresge & Wilson of Detroit, printed in Germany.


A postcard with a map shows certain points of interest.
Published by Curt Teich & Co., Inc., of Chicago.













Comments

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Marshall Field's at Christmas

  The aisle on the first floor of the State Street store is 358 feet long. Postcard publisher is unknown.  Many Chicagoans continue to miss visiting Marshall Field’s during the holiday season. Just talking about the famed Christmas windows and holiday decorations brings about memories of the department store’s glory days. Many of us can recall the strong smell of perfume that would greet visitors upon entering the flagship State Street store, along with the huge white Romanesque columns decorated with Christmas fare on the first floor. The real fun, however, was taking the elevator to the 7 th floor to get a glimpse of the giant Christmas tree inside the Walnut Room restaurant. The best place to view the tree was one floor up on a balcony area. Christmas decorations on the first floor. Postcard publisher is unknown.  Frango mint chocolates were piled high in various areas throughout the store, and many visitors couldn’t resist buying a box. Frango chocolates were once made in a kitc

Postcard Spotlight: Marina City in 3-D

A 3-D image of the Marina City towers on State Street and the Chicago River at night. The back of the postcard indicates that the towers are 60 stories tall and boast 896 apartments. The buildings also have 20 floors of auto parking and a 600-boat parking area. At the time of the printing of this postcard in the 1960s, Marina City also had a movie theater, shops, restaurants, a swimming pool, a skating rink, and a 3-acre park. The total cost of construction was $36 million.  Postcard published by Aero Distributing Co., Inc., of Chicago. Photo by Bill Engdahl with Hedrich Blessing Photographers.  The postcard is a Curteichcolor 3-D natural color reproduction.

Lost Souls on Chicago's Forgotten Suicide Bridge

On this postcard, the bridge is called Suicide Bridge instead of its official name High Bridge. Postcard publication is unknown.  A tall pedestrian bridge that was built over the Lincoln Park Lagoon in 1894 was later dubbed “Suicide Bridge” after the structure became a popular place for people to take their own lives . It is believed that about 100 people jumped off of the bridge during its 25 years. Located south of Fullerton and east of Lincoln Park Zoo near Webster Avenue (originally called Asylum Place), High Bridge allowed pedestrians to cross from Lincoln Park to the lakefront. At 75 feet--or four stories--tall, the bridge was built high enough to allow sailboats to pass underneath. It was so high that people standing on the bridge on a clear day could see as far as the stockyards, Jackson Park, and the steel mills.   High Bridge was featured in a chase scene in the 1916 film Cousin Jim . The stuntman hired to jump off the bridge refused to do it because he thought