In 1853 the first YMCA in Brooklyn opened its doors. Back then, the mission of the Young Men’s Christian Association was more evangelical than anything – but they did have a swimming pool and other such facilities. The Bedford Avenue branch opened in 1888 at its original location of 420 Gates Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. As the population of the area expanded in size, so did the need for an even larger space to accommodate everyone and by the turn of the century in 1901, construction was underway for a new space at 1115 Bedford Avenue. The new location (as seen above) officially opened its doors in 1905 offering amenities such as a state-of-the-art (at the time) gymnasium and swimming pool.
Over the next several decades, the neighborhood’s changing demographics along with the continued segregation of YMCA facilities through the mid-1940s caused the Bedford Avenue YMCA’s visitors and memberships to dwindle. As a result, classes were permanently cancelled, funding was reduced, and the property fell into a state of neglect. In 2007, instead of receiving much needed renovations, the building was demolished and a new building was erected in its place. Now residing at 1121 Bedford Ave on the corner of Monroe Street, it has become one of the busiest locations in Brooklyn, with a membership roster of over 8,000 people.
This image belongs to the Brooklyn Photograph and Illustration Collection. For more information please check out our finding aid here, and for more photographs from this collection check out our image gallery here.
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