Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

Y.M.C.A. Building, Raleigh, N.C.


This week Flashback Friday takes “a corner room at the Y.” Raleigh’s first permanent YMCA facility, seen here on our featured postcard, is long gone, but the ‘Y’ itself today still maintains an important presence in the capital city.


The message written on the back of this week’s card is barely legible and is rather cryptic, even.

Arr[ived] in N.Y. at 6.45 yest[erday] a.m. I had a busy day. Marge came over & met me at 10, & we shopped, had lunch at Alice Foote MacDougall’s [illegible], & saw Beatrice Millie in “She’s My Baby.” — then got a taxi & my trunk & came over. Didn’t get here till 7. Got washed & went back down to Crescent & met Guy & had dinner. Home at 9.30, tried to phone Trude & she was in bed [illegible] & went to bed. Your card was here.  W.

I am curious as to how a postcard depicting a Raleigh landmark ended up being mailed to a Massachusetts address from Brooklyn, NY. Maybe ‘W’ simply picked it up at the Raleigh train depot on her way north and didn’t get a chance to mail it until she got home to Brooklyn. And I’m further curious that the message itself presents such a detailed chronology of just a few hours in a day in the life of ‘W.” Go figure.

The YMCA — Then and Now

The first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was founded in London in 1844 as “a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets.” Here in America, the first Y opened its doors  in Boston in 1851. Beginning in the late 19th century, YMCA programs were expanded to include swimming, sports teams and social activities for young men with the goal “to put Christian principles into practice by developing a healthy ‘body, mind and spirit'”.

Prior to the 1960s, YMCA facilities in the United States were built with hotel-like rooms called residences, or dormitories, thus providing inexpensive  housing for young single men arriving into an unfamiliar urban environment, especially for those from rural areas.

As American society evolved over the course of the late 20th century, the YMCA in 2010 de-emphasized its focus on housing young men and extended its outreach to the greater community, and adopted a revitalized mission —

to strengthen the foundations of community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

A detailed history of the YMCA and its mission can be found on the YMCA website.

Raleigh’s ‘Y’

Originally established in Raleigh in 1858, the YMCA reorganized after the Civil War in 1867. Initially, the organization focused on “the spiritual nurturing of young men through Sunday schools, devotional meetings and Christian tracts and books.” Later, the Y took on charitable projects, such as supplying Raleigh’s poor with coal during the winter.

Throughout the late 19th century Raleigh’s YMCA rented space for its activities, as it had no permanent facility. As a result of mismanagement, however, the Y closed 1898. After several failed attempts to reorganize, a vigorous campaign led by Josephus Daniels and the N&O in 1911 resulted in raising $70,000.

Thus revitalized, Raleigh’s YMCA erected its first permanent building in 1913. Amenities included a gymnasium, assembly hall, reading rooms, a swimming pool in the basement and a 42-room ‘hostelry.’ The handsome five-story structure was built on the corner of Edenton and Wilmington Streets, a prominent site opposite the state capitol.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

This view of the Y was taken in 1950. The building was demolished in the early 1970s; the North Carolina Museum of History occupies the site today.

The Raleigh YMCA sold its aging 1913 building to the state in 1959 and erected a new facility on Hillsborough St in 1960. A modernist dormitory-styled building was designed by Raleigh architect Leif Valand. It featured a facade of white glazed tile, ribbon fenestration and a vertical brick stair tower accentuating the main entrance. Enormous initial letters, fashioned of brushed aluminum, announced that THIS building was the YMCA.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

This photo of the new YMCA at 1601 Hillsborough St was taken shortly before its completion in 1960. 

With its de-emphasis as a residential facility and refocus of its mission on community-based programs in the late 20th century, the YMCA demolished its Hillsborough St building in 2006. The new structure erected on the same site opened in 2009. Although I miss the modernist Y, I am heartened that at least the classic 1960 aluminum initial letters spelling out Y M C A were salvaged and reinstalled on the facade of the new building.


This is a recent view of the 2009 YMCA on Hillsborough St. The new building proudly displays the 1960 aluminum letters.


Our Flashback Friday ‘white border’ postcard this week was published by long time Raleigh stationer and office outfitter James E. Thiem. It was printed by the Curt Teich Co. of Chicago under the trade name ‘C.T. American Art Colored.’

Curt Teich Co.   1893-1974 Chicago, IL

A major publisher and printer. Their U.S. factories turned out more cards in quantity than any other printer. They published a wide range of national view-cards of America and Canada. Many consider them one of the finest producers of White Border Cards. The Linen Type postcard came about through their innovations as they pioneered the use of offset lithography. They were purchased by Regensteiner Publishers in 1974 which continued to print cards at the Chicago plant until 1978.

Curt Teich logo


“Flashback Friday” is a weekly feature of Goodnight, Raleigh! in which we showcase vintage postcards depicting our historic capital city. We hope you enjoy this week end treat!


Discuss Raleigh

  • Recent Comments:

    • Rudy g. Hoggard: July 13, 1966 I, from Rocky Mount, was sworn into the United States Air Force. Because of a nation...
    • Raleigh Girl: I stayed at the Alamo Plaza with the my grandparents in Raleigh and Charlotte. They would come to pick...
    • Kathryn Watkins: Master Paver, Christopher Columbus Sands (Sr), a stone mason & paver of Norfolk, Virginia,...
    • Joyo in Rocket League: Wonderful goods from you, man. I’ve have in mind your stuff prior to and you’re...
    • Matty: I miss Uncle Paul!!! We need his Fri night show back!!!!
    • Robert Larson: So they tore it down. What a waste. Was it leaky? Was the foundation compromised? Were people...
    • Monica Neil: I came across your website looking for photographs of businesses of the early 1900s. These are very...
    • Lisa S: I found this article with a video of the cleared out house. Here is the link to the video....