Outstanding Private Leadership

Wabash Avenue YMCA


Wabash YMCA and Weese Langley Weese Architects Ltd. received the award. This YMCA building is part of the Black Metropolis District, a local and nationally designated historic district in the South Side neighborhood of Bronzeville. Built in 1917, it played an integral role in the migration of southern African Americans to Chicago during the early part of the 20th century.

After closing in the 1970s, however, the building sat abandoned and open to the elements until the late 1990s, when a group of local churches formed an organization to develop and save the structure. Thanks to a grant from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the building was boarded and a new roof was installed, which helped save the structure from further damage until a rehabilitation project could begin. That effort, which was completed in December 2000, resulted in the creation of 101 new occupancy rooms and the restoration of many of the building’s original “Y” functions, including a pool, gym, ballroom, social and community spaces, as well as important wall murals.

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