The Kensington YWCA

There were two kinds of Ys, the YMCA for men and the YWCA for women. We had a YWCA just around the corner from where I lived in the 100 block of West Wishart. It was the Kensington YWCA at 171 W. Allegheny Avenue. During the Second World War, it was a hub of activities designed to bring comfort to our soldiers. In the late 1940s and the 1950s, the Kensington YWCA offered various kinds of classes and activities for both boys and girls. It also had an indoor pool that was available all year round.

I remember attending some of the classes, but only remember that what was taught was laced with the Christian religion. After all, it was the Young Women Christian Association. They taught arts and crafts, sponsored dances, and in the early 1970s, they even had a coffee house. Many people benefited from the work these wonderful community activists provided.

My favorite story about the YWCA happened the first year after I spent four years in the United States Air Force. That was 1966, and at that time, you had to be 21 to vote. This was the first year that I was eligible, and the YMCA was the polling place. As I walked around the corner, the old YWCA building came into view. It was a comforting sight, and memories of swimming and going to classes warmed up my mind.

It was a hubbub of political activity from both Republicans and Democrats. As I approached the door, a man came up to me and offered me $5 if I would vote for his candidate. Remember, I was just 21, and the last four years were spent serving our country, two of them in Vietnam. I was incensed and told him that I didn’t take bribes. I can’t remember who I voted for, but I know it was my vote, not his. A few years later, I thought about that day and wondered why I just didn’t take the money and voted for who I wanted anyway. 😊

The Old Kensington YMCA is now Handcock Manner, an affordable housing facility.

Do you have any YWCA or WMCA stories? If so, share them with us.

Next time: The Lighthouse Boys Club

Kensington YWCA 171 W Alleghany Ave. Phila.

The Y's pool. 1960s




If you want to view over 1,300 colorized images from the 1930s to the 1980s, visit my website at


Leave a comment

Name .
Message .