Saturday, December 21, 2019

Birth and Death of the YMCA's Building: Scenes of the Demolition

Some recent demolitions have seemed gratuitous or hasty. With Le Breton Hall at Fairview, Howard Hall at the Blind School, and Belluschi's First National Bank, it has seemed like owners and the City could have tried harder to keep them around.

Especially when there is no plan for replacement with a new building, trashing an old building just seems like a waste.

Other demolitions are more reasonable. When there are strong plans for replacement, and a building has had a long and useful life, even when we feel the loss of the old, the transitions take place in the normal course of a city's life. The change is purposeful and directed, not just a leveling and waste. This regeneration is creative also.

The Marion Car Park will be replaced by a new hotel. And now, the YMCA and Court Apartments will be replaced by a new Y complex. Maybe you will feel otherwise, but it seems right to recognize the loss, even to mourn a little, and then to move on to the new.

The old YMCA, sometime in the 1920s when it was new
(via The Mill - I've lost the citation and will update later)
One detail that has not been foregrounded much is how closely associated was the YMCA building campaign with the Livesley Tower. Hops magnate T. A. Livesley drove both projects.

State Insurance Building Sold, Livesley plans Bank Tower
(And Salem History Matters with a note on Pomeroy & Keene)
November 22th, 1924

This is the building the YMCA sold in 1924.
State Insurance Building, northwest corner, 1946
See more on the building here.
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
The Y had had a soft opening in April of 1926, and on May 16th a formal dedication and grand opening.

Dedication plans for May 16th, May 14th, 1926
So here are some clips of the demolition at the Y. The SJ and SR already documented some of it, and there are no great conclusions here, just bits on the normal churn, the dynamism and life cycle on a city lot

November 22nd

December 4th

December 20th
I'm not 100% sure this is the same exact swimming pool, but the before/after is a little moving. Would those kids at that moment have imagined the demolition, the end of the project?

Hyping and initiating the new pool, July 16th, 1926

At the end: Maybe the same pool
The tile pattern is the same anyway
December 20th
And here's the Court Apartments.

Court Apartments - Jan 1st, 1916

December 18th
Yesterday they were almost down to the mural.

December 20th
The old-growth timbers are one element that should not be wasted and be recycled for sure.

Hopefully they will reuse these - December 20th
Even if we accept that a building at about a century of age has finished its useful life, there are still ways to recycle at least some of the building materials and not waste their embodied energy and carbon.

In the end, because there is a plan for renewal, it's just part of the urban life cycle. (Maybe a little like the Solstice today.)

Back in February


Susann Kaltwasser said...

I learned how to swim in that pool! It was 1958 and I was in the third grade. I went to school at St. Joseph's Catholic School just across the street. But I had to get permission from the priest to be able to go to the YWCA. First, I was a girl and second the Y was a protestant organization. My father petitioned for me to be able to go and take the swimming lessons after school and I was permitted to do so only if my older brother accompanied me, that I would go directly in under his guidance and would leave immediately afterwards with him. I was not allowed to participate in any of the other activities.

I do not know when girls were allowed in the Y, but I think in 1958 is was still a practice that girls swam separate from the boys.

I do recall that within a year or two of that situation, things were relaxed and girls were allowed to be in the building alone and they had craft classes and other girls only activity groups...that I did not participate in, because I was doing 4-H at the Bligh Hotel with other girls.

Anonymous said...

That's an interesting story about Protestant-Catholic relations! The gender stuff is less surprising, unfortunately.

Salem Reporter has more on the mosaic removal -