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23rd Street Y: 1904

23rd Street Y: 1904

New York circa 1904. "23rd Street Branch, Y.M.C.A." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Photographic Company. View full size.


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I lived here in 1983

That’s the old McBurney Y, now in a new building on 14th Street at the site of the former 14th Street Armory.

The McBurney was the ”YMCA” of Village People fame, and a zoo it was. The management staff were genuinely good honest people. It was $31 a day, herds of roaches included. if you stayed there with regularity you were put on a list for a statutory lease at $240 per month. I got one and it saved my life.

Balcony Track

If this is the same as the Y that I used to go to on Saturday mornings back in the '60s, the wraparound balcony should be a banked track. After swimming lessons in the basement pool, we’d go up there and run laps because the track was small and the corners were banked. We’d jog the straightaways and accelerate through the turns to see how high we could go. My parents liked it because it kept us amused, out of the house, and not watching Saturday morning cartoons.


The original Y on 23rd Street, built in 1869, was over at Fourth Avenue, and moved to this location in 1904, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, where the Beaux-Arts building still stands on the north side, at 213, a little bit to the east of the Chelsea Hotel. The Y operated at this location until 2002 (since 1941 known as the McBurney Y) when it moved to 14th Street. Note the distinctive steel roof trusses in all three photos, including (below) a view of the gym and upper running track in later years, and the 7,000-square-foot loft in the same space when it was for sale in 2016 for $14.5 million. And, yes, it’s the YMCA in the background of The Village People video in 1978.

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