Wednesday, February 18, 2015

19 South LaSalle Street /Association Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [19 South LaSalle Street /Association Building (1893) Jenney & Mundie, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Architect William Le Baron Jenney had designed a few groundbreaking buildings in Chicago by the time staff architect William Mundie's name was added to the firm's letterhead. When the Chicago chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association came to the architects offices in 1892 to see about a new building, the paint adding Mundie's name to the door had just dried.

  [19 South LaSalle Street /Association Building, 19 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

At the time the Y.M.C.A. was meeting regularly in the auditorium of the Farwell Building, (not to be confused with the Michigan Avenue Farwell) accessed through a former alleyway known as Arcade Place, marked today by an elaborate entry gate topped with decorative ironwork. So when the Association decided to build their own building, they simply chose a site across Arcade at LaSalle Street and gave the architect's a long list of their desired uses for their new home.

  [19 South LaSalle Street /Association Building, Central Y.M.C.A Building, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When the 14-story tower opened in 1893, the designer's had delivered. The interior included, among other things, a 2-story gymnasium, handball and tennis courts, a swimming pool, a 1,500 volume library, offices, and a large parlor behind the arched 2nd floor windows, trimmed in marble, mosaics, and mahogany, all for $900,000. The building was accessible to young men regardless of economic status or ethnicity, but as the Chicago Tribune stated, "this is no place for a young man addicted to coarseness. Beer, tobacco, cards, profanity and vulgarity are unknown quantities in this luxurious retreat."
The Central Y.M.C.A offered classes at the high school level as well as college courses, and later became a haven for those seeking a higher education but not having the financial wherewithal to do so. By the 1970s the building itself was worth far less than the land it stood on, and the Y purchased a smaller building in the Loop where they continued to offer classes but without the physical education component. Jenney & Mundie's building was sold and the tower was converted into office space, the La Salle Street entrance was closed-up, and the main entry was accessed through a cleaned-up Arcade Place.

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