“Colored” YMCA

Sewickley Black History Tour

“Colored” YMCA

Sewickley, Pennsylvania 15143, United States

Created By: Sweetwater Center for the Arts


“Colored” YMCA
411 Walnut Street, Sewickley

Though the Sewickley Valley YMCA offered recreational activities since the late 1800s, Black residents were not allowed to use the facilities. After years of being left out, the Black community opened their own YMCA on Walnut Street, known as the “Colored” YMCA or the Walnut Street YMCA, in 1913. The dedication and opening was a distinguished celebration complete with three days of activities: programming, services and speakers. The “Colored” YMCA was among the first organized recreational sites for the Black community in Sewickley and was conveniently located one block from the Sewickley Public School that once stood on Broad and Thorn Streets. Children could safely walk from school to the “Colored” YMCA to participate in after school activities and programming. The Public School Pavilion, behind the school building at the edge of the playground, was an extension of the recreational activities of the Black community as well, as it was the only gymnasium facility for African Americans until around 1960 when the Sewickley Community Center built it’s annex. The “Colored” Y continued in service to the Black community until 1924, when it was damaged by storm and flooding. Now occupied by Norman’s Cut N Edge Barbershop, the two adjacent buildings were the original home of the St. Matthews A.M.E. Zion Church and its parsonage.

Black History of the Time (1913-1924)
The first African American YMCA was established in 1853 by Anthony Bowen. Though it was popular with the Black community early on, financial and social stresses stalled memberships to the organization. But by the late 1800s, the movement grew and there were chapters in many major cities. The Center Avenue YMCA in the Hill District started in 1883, was officially chartered in 1910, and was the only other YMCA serving African American Men in Western Pennsylvania at the time that Sewickley’s “Colored” YMCA was founded. By the mid-1920s the African American YMCA had 28,000 members nationwide.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Sewickley Black History Tour


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