Advocates for the preservation of the Huntington Avenue YMCA have submitted a second petition to the city’s Landmarks Commission in a last-ditch effort to raise the building’s status and discourage to build a residential tower on the site.
The petition, which includes letters of support from three architectural historians, requests that the YMCA’s gymnasium, lobby and chapel be studied further for possible designation as Boston Landmarks with state/regional significance. Granting the building Landmark status would further delay any renovations to the YMCA, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Commission turned down a previous request for an upgrade at a meeting in early May. At the time, Commissioner Thomas Herman said the decision was one of the toughest the Commission has ever had to make.
According to Worcester Street resident David Harrington, the latest petition offers new information on the historical significance of the 1913 building, which is one of only five YMCA’s across the country still used for its original purpose. In a letter of support attatched to the petition, Dr. Paula Lupkin describes the gymnasium as a fundamental part of the YMCA’s early mission.
“The importance of the gymnasium and chapel to the integrity of this building cannot be overstated,” she writes. “The gym was the central feature of the YMCA, the main attraction to the thousands of members, and most joined simply to have access to this athletic facility.”
In another letter of support, History of Architecture Professor James O’Gorman describes the building as one of the city’s finest examples of Tapestry Brick design due to its high profile use and height (10 stories).
“Rarely was the Tapestry Brick design style employed by prominent architectural firms like Shepley Rutan and Coolidge in designs for monumental, high profile buildings that would attract a sitting President of the United States to the dedication ceremonies,” he writes.
The gymnasium, located off the rear of the main building, is currently slated for demolition as part of Northeastern University’s plan to build a residential tower with space for 720 student beds. Construction was initially scheduled to begin in June, but has been held up by efforts from neighbors and Y members who vehemently oppose the project.
The latest petition will be considered by the Landmarks Commission during its business meeting Tuesday night at 6 p.m. in Room 805 of City Hall. Y advocates have also organized a neighborhood meeting on Wednesday, August 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Susan Bailis Assisted Living facility at 352 Massachusetts Avenue. For more information visit Save the Boston Y.