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Manhood Factories

Manhood Factories: YMCA Architecture and the Making of Modern Urban Culture

Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Manhood Factories
    Book Description:

    Between the Civil War and the Great Depression, the Young Men’s Christian Association built more than a thousand community centers across the United States and in major cities around the world. Paula Lupkin goes behind the reserved Beaux-Arts facades of typical YMCA buildings constructed in this period to understand the urban anxieties, moral agendas, and conceptions of masculinity that guided their design, construction, and use.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7064-2
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. INTRODUCTION The YMCA and the Cultural Landscape of Modernity
    (pp. xv-xxv)

    Between the Civil War and World War I the Young Men’s Christian Association was responsible for the construction of more than one thousand buildings on Main Streets across the United States. The typical Main Street YMCA building’s form—brick, three or four stories tall, with some classicizing detail—is so standardized and well known that it is often taken for granted, a set piece in the American downtown. One model railroading supply company, Model Power, even manufactures an N-Scale YMCA building kit (Figure I.1), which it sells to hobbyists constructing their ideal town layouts, along with its bank, library, town...

  5. 1 RECONCILING MORALITY AND MAMMON A Christian Club for Clerks
    (pp. 1-35)

    At the end of the Civil War, the New York Young Men’s Christian Association was struggling: for money, for members, and for a clearly defined purpose. Once more than a thousand strong, this active brotherhood of clerks and clerics had dwindled to a few dozen members. Heated debate over the issue of slavery and then enlistment had slowly denuded it of its membership, and money available for the spiritual needs of young men was directed to soldiers in the field rather than clerks in the countinghouses. Nearly bankrupt, the Y was forced to move to cheap rented quarters in the...

    (pp. 37-71)

    On December 2, 1869, the New York Young Men’s Christian Association dedicated its magnificent new headquarters on the corner of Twenty-third Street and Fourth Avenue, on the edge of the bustling new shopping and entertainment district known as the Ladies’ Mile (Figure 2.1). It was one of the most ambitious additions to the city’s fabric since the Civil War, a fact noted by art critic Clarence Cook. He claimed that it ranked “in extent, original conception, and design as one of our finestmodernerections.”¹ Designed by fashionable architect James Renwick Jr., the five-story building physically and programmatically combined religion,...

  7. 3 ACCEPTING THE CALL TO BUILD Architectural Evangelism on Main Street
    (pp. 73-109)

    After the completion of their impressive new building in 1869, the young leaders of the New York YMCA and their allies focused their efforts on a larger and even more ambitious task: the placement of a similar structure on every Main Street in the United States. Fusing their evangelical missionary heritage, their Republican politics, and their role as the pioneers of modern corporate structures, they envisioned a national network of Ys as important unifying elements of an increasingly modern, urban, and unified public culture. As David Scobey has written, in this period of reconstruction “nationhood in the United States was...

    (pp. 111-135)

    At the turn of the century YMCA buildings, now an accepted element of the urban landscape, “grew up.” Both literally and metaphorically the architecture of the Christian clubhouse developed into a sophisticated, complex, and often monumental structure. Long-established features, remnants of its mercantile evangelical origins, like the street-level stores, the parlor, and the revival hall, made way for dormitories, swimming pools, billiard rooms, lunch counters, and separate facilities for boys. These changes not only required an increase in height and square footage, but they also challenged the identity of the building itself. What had been designed as moral ballast and...

  9. 5 FROM GREENSBORO TO CHINA YMCA Architecture as International Business
    (pp. 137-179)

    As the story of the Chicago YMCA skyscraper and Brooklyn’s Big Y suggests, the model YMCA building was by the early 1900s a complex and quickly evolving mechanism, subject to constant change and inevitable obsolescence, just like the factories to which it was compared. These conditions strained the organization’s relationship with the architectural profession. Few commissions were as complicated, and most architects struggled to master the organization of this building type on the strict budget allowed. The acquisition of machinery and the arrangement of the internal features required specialized knowledge and experience.¹ Local building committees, especially outside of major urban...

  10. EPILOGUE Influences Radiate . . .
    (pp. 181-198)

    Over the course of sixty years, between the Civil War and the Great Depression, the YMCA transformed what had once been a voluntary organization into a highly visible national network of buildings. The environmental evangelism that guided George Williams developed into a permanent physical framework, a standardized building that became a set piece of urban life from New York to San Francisco, from Selma to Shanghai. In a series of 1919 articles on “The Social Center” forArchitectural Record,historian and critic Fiske Kimball surveyed both philanthropic and for-profit recreational buildings, and noted the leadership of the YMCA:

    In general...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 199-220)
    (pp. 221-240)
    (pp. 241-242)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 243-253)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 254-254)
  16. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)