While the Charles E. Whitaker Federal Courthouse might be an iconic addition to Kansas City’s skyline, the now long forgotten and demolished YMCA building at 10th and Oak Streets probably housed more Horatio Alger related clientele in its day than most any other downtown building.
In 1906, Henry M. Beardsley, then a city councilman and later Mayor, declared that the Kansas City YMCA organization could raise $250,000 in a 30-day period to fund the construction of a new downtown YMCA. The drive raised over $283,000 and local architect Louis S. Curtiss was hired to design the new, eight-story facility. The “new” Y replaced the old facility in the Pepper Building at 9th and Locust that burned May 8, 1907.
The Y was formally opened in January 1910, with an indoor swimming pool, track, cafeteria, night study classes, bowling alley, chapel, game rooms and a clubroom for underprivileged boys. Noted greeting card publisher Joyce C. Hall regularly stayed at “The Y” when traveling to Kansas City from his native Nebraska to sell his picture postcards to local retailers.
This postcard was sent on Wednesday evening October 2, 1911, to Mr. Earl F. Walker of Lincoln, Neb. The personal message reads: “Have been to a street carnival seeing things. How are you? Will start home in 40 minutes. Everybody is moving here. Let us hear from you. Dr. A. B. Walker.”
The old YMCA stood guard over the 300 block of East 10th Street for over 80 years. During its twilight years, like many downtown structures, it fell into disrepair and became home to those seeking a room for $5 or $10 a night. It was ultimately razed in 1998 as part of the downtown Ilus Davis Park project and new courthouse that was completed in 2003. Ironically, the downtown homeless population still finds refuge on the site.