What did you do at the YWCA?

Historic status of YWCA relies on stories

July 6, 2013
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This photo shows the cast of a pageant presented Oct. 28, 1929, by the Delta Kappa Club of Washington YWCA to mark the opening of the new YWCA building. The pageant was directed by Bird Core, and the Lutheran Church choir, directed by Bessie Weirich Pickens Hoop, led the singing service, processional and recessional.
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Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
Rick Zatta, a historic and architectural accessibility consultant, is shown outside the former YWCA, now the future home of TRIPIL, on West Maiden Street in Washington. Order a Print

Layers of paint have peeled away from columns along the side of the stage where pageants were once held to entertain the Washington community. Look closely and you will see other remnants of the fine building that had once been the home of YWCA of Washington.

The Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living purchased the former YWCA in January 2012 for $325,000, with a goal of restoring the almost 85-year-old Elizabethan Revival style building to its former glory days. TRIPIL will use the building as its new headquarters. The YWCA closed its doors as the Family Y in 2002 and the building, at 42 W. Maiden St. in Washington, fell into disrepair.

As it works toward making repairs, the group is also trying to have the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places. As part of that effort, Rick Zatta, a historic and accessible design consultant, is looking for photographs and stories of those women who used the YWCA, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s, that will be used as part of the application process.

“We already have much of the criteria,” Zatta said. “Seventy-five percent of the building’s integrity is intact.”

Zatta is collecting chips from the original paint to replicate the colors as closely as possible. He is also working to make a mold of a crest that once hung over the stage. Part of the crest is missing.

The 30,000-square-foot masonry building was designed by Washington architect R. Garry Dickson. Madeleine LeMoyne Reed, daughter of Dr. Julius LeMoyne, donated $50,000 toward the $214,000 cost of construction plus furnishings, Zatta said.

But it is the stories of the bygone days that Zatta wants to hear from those who lived it.

The building once was home for young women who may have worked in Washington or who needed a place to stay. It was also a place for fun, with Y-Teen dances and music by Bobby Vinton and the Big Bopper.

“There were variety shows and other acts,” Zatta said.

Zatta has photographs from a pageant held when the YWCA had its opening in late October and early November of 1929. Through the years, the stage featured ballets and other performances. The multipurpose room hosted dances and proms.

Records were found from the later years, but there is not much documentation from the early days of the YWCA.

Plans for the refurbished YWCA include a museum with artifacts from the building’s early years.

Molds were made of the historical architectural elements in the Elizabethan Revival pattern ceiling in the parlor, which served as a waiting room for the young men calling for their dates who lived at the YWCA. The original light fixtures have been removed and will be restored as part of the restoration project.

Kathleen Kleinmann, chief executive officer for TRIPIL, said many at the organization have been collaborating to design the new floor plan and sharing ideas with the project architect, Ken Kulak.

“Our plans for using the building will include an extra measure of accessibility for all the people who will work and visit each day,” Kleinmann stated. “We plan to exceed the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act because the regulations only provide minimal standards and we can do better than that.

“Our primary focus at this time is planning on the site for the removal of the asbestos and securing the parking lot for the use of our training facility, which used to be the Teen Center,” she added.

Kleinmann also indicated the process of putting the building on the historic registry is taking longer than originally hoped so the timetable for completion has been pushed back. The group is now aiming at occupying the building in the Spring 2015.

Zatta said there may a reunion of sorts of those who participated in programs at the YWCA in the earlier years. Anyone with photographs or stories to share can call Zatta at 407-592-6728.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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