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West Side YMCA records

Identifier: Y.GNY.14


Records of the New York West Side YMCA branch consist of minutes of the Board of Managers, Executive Committee and many operational committees and departments such as the Boy's Work Committee, the Physical Department and the Education Deparptment. Also included are branch annual reports before 1933, program brochures and flyers, press clippings and correspondence. The majority of the material is from the period before the opening of the West 63rd Street building, although there are some items from the 1960s and 1980s.


  • 1896-2016
  • Majority of material found within 1896-1980s


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


Known as "McBurney's Folly", the West Side branch of the YMCA of Greater New York began in November 1896 on West 57th Street. The building's nickname developed because no one believed that a YMCA of the size and scope of the West Side branch would ever be needed, especially one so far from New York City's population center.

The structure was built on land donated by Cornelius and William H. Vanderbilt and had separate facilities for boys and men, including gyms, swimming pools, and bowling alleys. Although it added a 300 bed residence in 1912, the original branch building outgrew demand and moved to a new location in April of 1930. The new building, between 3-11 West 63rd Street and 6-12 West 64th Street opened near Central Park West, with a capacity for 10,000 members and a cost of $3,250,000. Soon after, an addition was constructed to house the Trade and Technical School of the Educational Department. In the 1950s the Educational Department decided to focus its efforts on developing a college preparatory school, abandoning its other educational work. The McBurney School became the school thought to have been the model for the school attended by Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.

Designed by Dwight James Baum, who made his professional reputation building houses for the rich in Riverdale's Fieldston section in the Bronx, Westchester County suburbs and in Florida, the West Side YMCA structure was the world's largest YMCA building. With fourteen stories and 600 guest rooms, the West Side Y boasted a medieval theme, with polychrome tile, battlements and irregular balconies spaced to resemble a 12th century Italian fortified town.

The land on which The McBurney School stood become increasingly valuable, in part because of its proximity to Lincoln Center. The school closed in 1988 and the YMCA of Greater New York then sold the building and the air rights to a developer who opened a 41-story condominium tower cantilevered over the West Side Y. The YMCA reportedly received $23 million dollars in new facilities and cash payments despite bitter opposition to the project by neighborhood residents.

This branch of the YMCA of Greater New York has a long history of athletic prowess, and its gymnastics, handball and basketball teams have been well-regarded during this branch's 100-plus year history. Like other YMCAs in New York City with residential programs, the West Side YMCA provided a temporary home to a number of future celebrities, including Fred Allen, John Barrymore, Montgomery Clift, Lee J. Cobb, Kirk Douglas, Eddie Duchin, Douglas Fairbanks, Dave Garroway, Bob Hope, Elia Kazan, Jack Kerouac, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dan Rather, Norman Rockwell, Andy Rooney, Robert Penn Warren, Johnny Weismuller, Malcolm X and Tennessee Williams.

(Information taken from The YMCA at 150: A History of the YMCA of Greater New York, 1852-2002 by Pamela Bayless and from websites)


14.3 Cubic Feet (36 boxes)


Collected reports, scrap books, press clippings, printed brochures and cards, minutes and correspondence from the West Side branch of the YMCA of Greater New York.


These documents are organized into the following sections:
  1. Board of Managers.
  2. Committees and Departments.
  3. Correspondence.
  4. Events.
  5. Miscellaneous Printed Material.
  6. Programs.

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


See also the photographs of the West Side branch of the YMCA of Greater New York, separately catalogued at the Kautz Family YMCA Archives. >> Go to the inventory

Processing Information:

Processed by: Louise Merriam, March 2008.

Catalog Record ID number: 5285161
An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Louise Merriam.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area