The Anthony Bowen YMCA recently distributed flyers to Northwest Washington D.C. residents informing them about the upcoming October 2012 opening of a new building for the YMCA. In the flyer, Angie Reese-Hawkins, President & CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington recounts a little of the history of the YMCA and then writes eloquently on the YMCA’s mission:
“The new Y unites the right minds and resources to serve this diverse community, honoring Anthony Bowen’s passion to create a place where all can grow. Each time this Y has been resurrected, it has met the personal and social needs of the community, region and nation. Join us as we write history again, by being part of a legacy that will positively impact your life and the lives of generations to come.”
The D.C. YMCA on 12th Street NW, shortly after it opened
Image from The Crisis, November 1914, courtesy of the Modernist Journals Project
Anthony Bowen, who was born into slavery in Prince George’s County but purchased his freedom, organized the original African American YMCA in D.C. before the Civil War. After a series of temporary locations, the YMCA moved in 1912 into a new building on 12th Street NW funded in part by a Julius Rosenwald challenge grant. The D.C. YMCA was the pilot project of this program and the first of many YMCAs to be funded by Rosenwald. Its generous, modern spaces influenced the design of the buildings that followed it. In the 1980s, the YMCA moved into a new building on W Street NW, which is next door to the new YMCA that will open later this year at 14th and W Streets NW.
The Anthony Bowen YMCA basketball team
Image from The Crisis, July 1911, courtesy of the Modernist Journals Project
You can read more about the Anthony Bowen YMCA on their website. There are also a couple of interesting videos on their Vimeo channel, one featuring Thomas B. Hargrave Jr. discussing the origins of the D.C. YMCA all the way back in 1853 and another with Janice Williams of the YMCA talking about the more recent history of the organization. It’s great to see this YMCA getting renewed and revitalized again. As Angie Reese-Hawkins and other people who are passionate about the YMCA will tell you, it’s been a positive force in the community for over 150 years.
By Michael Rose