The lunchtime tourist

Share this:
February 17, 2003 // UPDATED 4:40 pm - April 27, 2007
By: YMCA Building
YMCA Building</b>

(Now Oakwood Apartments)

36 S. 9th St.

Today you can stretch your hamstrings and your knowledge of Minneapolis history over lunch. The ubiquitous exercise club, the YMCA, got its start in London in 1844. Twenty years later the Young Men's Christian Association made its way to Minneapolis. The principle of the club was to develop spiritual, moral, mental and physical health. As the organization evolved, it later included women and today considers itself nondenominational.

The YMCA is the oldest and largest social institution in the United States. There are more than 2,400 locations, and the metropolitan Minneapolis club alone includes 53,000 members. Basketball, volleyball and recreational camping were all invented by the "Y." Queen Victoria knighted its founder, George Williams, in 1894, and years later childhood explorer Ann Bancroft endured the wilds at the club's Camp Widjiwagan.

The Minneapolis YMCA has had numerous headquarters as its membership escalated. This club building was built in 1919 and designed by local architects Long, Lamereaux, and Long. It's considered late gothic revival and follows the classic proportions of the era by dividing the building into a base, middle and top. The lower three stories are granite and limestone with plenty of carved details. The central stories have repetitive window openings separated by terra cotta piers--early skyscrapers wanted to look as tall as possible and often used visual tricks, such as stripes, to create a vertical emphasis. The building's top looks like a transplanted chateau, with more gothic detailing, pointed gables at either end, and capped with a green tile mansard roof. Since gothic architecture had been very popular on churches -- the pointed arches gesture toward the heavens -- the architects chose an appropriate style for the building's inhabitants.

When LaSalle Plaza was constructed on the entire block surrounding the YMCA, the club moved next door and the building became home to Oakwood Apartments for corporate rental housing. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

LUNCH TIP: Hop upstairs in LaSalle Plaza for Palomino's chicken stromboli with roasted pears and blue cheese.

Want to know about something in your building? Contact thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.