42 Images of The Locust Street YMCA – 90 Years In Downtown St. Louis

42 Images of The Locust Street YMCA – 90 Years In Downtown St. Louis

The Gateway Region YMCA recently announced the Downtown YMCA will be moving from its current location at 1528 Locust Street in the Downtown West neighborhood to the MX Building (formerly St. Louis Centre) near 6th and Locust Streets in the Downtown neighborhood. The YMCA message to its members can be found below. The nextSTL story is here: After 90 Years, Downtown St. Louis YMCA to Move to New Home at MX.


As a member of the YMCA, I am a bit nostalgic for this location. St. Louis has five locations including Carondelet, Monsanto (near Page and Union), O’Fallon, South City and Downtown. Of those, the Downtown Y is the oldest and has the feel of an old school men’s club. While the building is 90 years old, it is still functional and unique. It was built to be special and grand from the lobby to the swimming pool.

STL Downtown YMCA_2STL Downtown YMCA_38STL Downtown YMCA_37

Based on the current press statements, you can’t help but feel like this is a downsizing, a reduction in amenities and size for the Downtown location. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the YMCA wants to reduce it’s footprint and operating costs of the older, larger building: “The building we’re currently in is too large of a space for our membership size,” Helm said. “This moves us into a smaller space that is more appropriately sized for the number of members we have.”

Racquetball courts and a swimming pool are among the features at the current facility that won’t be available at the new MX Y. They didn’t mention the indoor driving range, sauna, whirlpool, volleyball/basketball court, barber shop or track, but I presume these will not be available either. As a member and city lover, this feels like a continuation of the downsizing of the YMCA’s presence downtown as they closed the Marquette location at 314 Broadway back in 2012 and now will be reducing the size and scope of the last remaining Y downtown.

The best outcome for St. Louis is that the 1528 Locust location is purchased and redeveloped as residential bring more density to this part of downtown and the MX location brings the “new” amenities that many if not most patrons desire. A win:win if that scenario plays out.

So I’ll share some of the touches that have caught my eye:

STL Downtown YMCA_13{full service barber shop}

STL Downtown YMCA_16{vintage pool with beautiful tile}

STL Downtown YMCA_14STL Downtown YMCA_15

STL Downtown YMCA_22{indoor driving range}

STL Downtown YMCA_25{the track surrounds the main cardio and weight training gym}

STL Downtown YMCA_26{angled track abuts wood floor areas for stretching}

STL Downtown YMCA_27

STL Downtown YMCA_24{three racquetball courts were recently refinished}

STL Downtown YMCA_23STL Downtown YMCA_21

STL Downtown YMCA_28{basketball/volleyball court is always in use and is a good, welcoming scene}

STL Downtown YMCA_34{carved wood panels throughout the main entrance}

STL Downtown YMCA_35STL Downtown YMCA_36

Old scales are scattered throughout the gym that might be as old as the building:

STL Downtown YMCA_33

STL Downtown YMCA_32{honest weights}

There are marble stairs and carved wood hand rails.

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There are small workout and meditation rooms throughout that afford privacy while exercising.

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Gone will be the bright red neon and metal sign atop this beautiful building.

STL Downtown YMCA_8

The upper floors (not leased by the YMCA) are being left to deteriorate and little to no work is being done to slow the decline. For instance, the upper floor windows and doors on the southern face of the building are open to the elements. Per City records, it is owned by Sonny Property #1 LLC in Benton, Illinois.

STL Downtown YMCA_6STL Downtown YMCA_19STL Downtown YMCA_18STL Downtown YMCA_20STL Downtown YMCA_17

The exterior has plenty of nods to the YMCA.

STL Downtown YMCA_5STL Downtown YMCA_41STL Downtown YMCA_12STL Downtown YMCA_39

But more than anything, it is the vibe I will miss. Each of the five St. Louis locations has it’s own feel. This location has a lot of older guys, mainly older black guys. The music coming through the sound system was old school soul and R & B. It was a very chilled vibe with lots of regulars who seemed like they’ve know each other for years…almost like a family. It is the most relaxed Y I’ve been to and that is why we frequent this one. You rarely have to wait for the equipment/amenities.

So per the YMCA’s current plans, the 1528 Locust location will be open through January, 2017 until the new location is operational. So if you are like me and appreciate 1920s architecture and design, go check it out while you can.

STL Downtown YMCA_4 STL Downtown YMCA_9 STL Downtown YMCA_10 STL Downtown YMCA_11STL Downtown YMCA_40 STL Downtown YMCA_42 STL Downtown YMCA_43 STL Downtown YMCA_1STL Downtown YMCA_7

Following is an excerpt from the YMCA’s statement to members:

new Y

Exciting changes are coming to the Downtown St. Louis Y!
Dear Valued Member,

I’m writing to share with you some exciting and significant changes with the Downtown Y facility. The Board of Directors for the Gateway Region YMCA has voted to relocate the current Downtown Y at 1528 Locust to a new location in the downtown central business district. Currently, the Y has signed a letter of intent for a new state-of-the-art facility at 6th and Locust Streets in the MX Building development.

The new location will feature many amenities, including a fitness center, group exercise rooms, the latest equipment, private showers, changing rooms and steam rooms, an outdoor patio for outdoor classes and social functions, and an open lobby with free Wi-Fi, coffee, gathering and working areas. The target date for opening the new branch is January 2017. Operations will continue at the current facility until the new facility is ready.

This decision comes after a year of careful and extensive research and deliberation by a special committee made up of Downtown Y board volunteers, Metro board volunteers, and staff, as well as by an independent research firm, to study options for the future of the Downtown branch. For a number of reasons, the current facility faces significant annual financial losses. This, along with a sizable investment needed for deferred maintenance, prompted our search for a new location. This move will put us in a position to reduce the negative impact on our long-term fiscal health and provide continued service to the downtown community and those from around the bi-state area who use the facility.

There is nothing you need to do at this time. We will notify you when we have finalized an opening date for the new Downtown Y. In the meantime, the current facility will remain open. As a reminder, membership at the Y is “Join One, Join All”, so you are allowed full access to any of our 24 branches in the bi-state area, including our four other branches in the City of St. Louis – the South City Family Y, the Monsanto Family Y, the Carondelet Park Rec Complex and the O’Fallon Park Rec Complex.

Tim Helm
President and CEO, Gateway Region YMCA


Mark Groth writes at his site St. Louis City Talk – pay it a visit and plan to get lost in St. Louis history for an hour or two!


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