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YMCA/YWCA - New Castle PA

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The New Castle branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), a Christian men’s organization founded in England in 1844, was chartered in 1867. In 1885 evangelical singer Ira Sankey, who was a longtime member and supporter of the YMCA, donated $40,000 so the local YMCA could purchase this building (built about 1870) at the northeast corner of Washington and Jefferson Streets on the Diamond. (c1905) Full Size

In January 1913 the YMCA, which had grown considerably, opened a new building on the Diamond and vacated their old home. In February 1914, after raising the necessary funds, the YWCA purchased this building, did some remodeling, and soon moved in. The YWCA was chartered in 1908 and had been renting space at several locations before occupying quarters in the Woods Building. Full Size

This and the following five photos are of the old YMCA building. This one depicts the lobby. (c1915)

The library. (c1915)

The cafeteria. (c1915)

The auditorium. (c1915)

The gymnasium. (c1915)

The game room. (c1915)

During an amazing week-long fund-raising campaign in December 1910 the YMCA raised close to $100,000. Additional funds were raised in the coming months as plans were made to purchase a lot and erect a new building on the Diamond. Preliminary work began in June 1911 but construction did not commence until late in the year. This new five-story building was formally opened and dedicated with great fanfare on January 23, 1913. (c1915) Full Size

The total cost of the property purchase, contruction, and interior furnishings of the new YMCA came to $157,000. The top two floors were home to sixty-eight dormitory rooms. (c1916)

The new YMCA was opened on the on the northwest corner of West Washington Street & Diamond Way in 1913, and later became home to the new combined YM-YWCA in October 1964. (c1916)

The lobby of the newer YMCA building that opened in 1913. (c1920) Full Size

The swimming pool in the basement of the new YMCA. (c1915) Full Size

(Jul 1913)

An advertisement spotlighting the new YMCA swimming pool. (1915) Full Size

The Y, despite being based on Christian principles, was as steeped in racial intolerance as any other public facility. There were separate facilities for African-Americans for many years. Beginning in 1919 the “black” YMCA shared space with the “black” American Legion (Post No. 528) in a building on North Shenango Street, while the “black” YWCA acquired a residence on Elm Street (shown above). These chapters were often referred to the Shenango Street Branch of the YMCA and the Elm Street Branch of the YWCA. Both were essentially abolished in 1963-64 when the national YMCA banned racial segregation within its ranks and the Y opened its new facility on the Diamond. (c1950) Full Size

Members of the “black” YWCA in New Castle hold a meeting at their home on Elm Street. (c1950) Full Size

(Sep 1991)

In the early 1950’s the YMCA and YWCA began preliminary discussions on the building of a combined facility. In January 1961 a fund-raising campaign commenced which eventually brought in an astonishing $1.35 million. In April 1963, the old YMCA and several other smaller buildings, were razed to make room for new $1.6 million YM-YWCA building. The Y also sold off all its other properties as well so all its members were brought together under one roof when the new facility (shown above) was opened in October 1964. After a 1984 internal reorganization plan the facility became known as the “Community Y.” (Mar 2013) Full Size

(Mar 2013)

(Mar 2013)

(Mar 2013)

(Mar 2013)

(Mar 2013) Full Size


  1. Hi,

    I was wondering if in your historical records you had any information regarding my great grandmother, Mrs.Sarah McNeill (wife of Evan McNeill), who was a YWCA member dating back to 1908 and before. She’s referenced on page 947 of the 1908 edition of “20th Century History of New Castle and Lawrence County Pennsylvania and Representative Citizens”.

    I’m doing a historical search and haven’t been able to find much information on my great grandmother during her residence in New Castle.

    Any information that you may be able to provide would be much appreciated.

    Thank you.

  2. (EDITOR’S NOTE) Doug, thanks for posting your comment. I did a quick search and did not find much at all relating to Sarah and the YWCA. I found an article about Sarah and Evan in court against each other (possible divorce case?) in New Castle in April 1911 and an article mentioning their unfortunate deaths in 1918/19 but that’s about all. Not sure if those interest you? I’ll be doing a thorough writeup soon for this page (YMCA/YWCA) and if I come across anything I’ll send you an email. Thanks again. Jeff

  3. Hello,

    I am doing a project for my history class and I came across a picture of the Black YWCA having a meeting at 202 Shenango St. I originally believed the group functioned out of one of the members’ homes but when I looked through the newspaper it had many YMCA meetings taking place at that house. I am extremely confused seeing how the YMCA had a functioning facility at this time. Could you please be able to give me some information on this?

  4. (EDITOR’S NOTE) Savannah, Well simply put those were the days of racial segregation. I believe it was in 1919 that separates branches of the YMCA/YWCA for African-Americans were established in New Castle. The American Legion Post No. 528 (Col. Charles Young Post) was opened for African-Americans in 1919 at #202 North Shenango Street, and the “Black YMCA” shared this building for many decades. The “Black YWCA” met in private homes and at the Legion Post No. 528 before acquiring a small facility on Elm Street for its own use. You would often see the organizations referred to as the Shenango Street branch of the YMCA and the Elm Street branch of the YWCA. The national YMCA/YWCA passed regulations banning segregation in 1946, but old habits die hard and separate facilities remained for several decades. I believe it was after the opening of the combined New Castle “Y” in October 1964 that the other branches were finally closed. Hope this helps. Jeff

  5. My great uncle, Dr William J Cromie, later a professor at University of Pennsylvania, and a nationally known author, got his start in the YMCA, there in New Castle.

    We are researching our family ancestry and would be interested to know if you have anything concerning him in your records.

    Thank you very much. jimkeil59@gmail.com


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