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Cumberland YMCA
Photograph by Kathleen McKenney, courtesy of the City of Cumberland

View of Cumberland YMCA demonstrating the triangular shape lot and building
NPS Photograph

The Cumberland YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) building is an excellent example of institutional architecture of the early 20th century and represents the academic classicism of that period. Additionally, the YMCA building reflects the history of this community institution. Established in 1873, the Cumberland YMCA was situated at various locations prior to construction of this building in 1925. Of note is the triangular piece of land upon which the YMCA is located adjacent to the B&O Railroad, indicative of the occasionally oddly shaped lots created by the steep terrain, rivers and railroad tracks that have dictated the layout of the city.

The Young Men's Christian Association was first organized in London in 1844, by 12 young employees of a dry goods business, representing four religious denominations. Their objective was to improve the "spiritual conditions of young men." The first YMCA in America was founded in 1851 in Boston, Massachusetts, and eight years later, the first YMCA building was constructed in Baltimore, Maryland. Across the country, the YMCA was instrumental in organizing night classes, vocational guidance, as well as sports and camping for boys.

Cumberland may have had a YMCA as early as 1869, and occupied four other buildings before the one at 205 Baltimore Avenue was constructed. By the early 1920s, Cumberland was experiencing substantial growth with the establishment of several new industries. When the YMCA building was completed it contained the only indoor swimming pool in the Cumberland area, as well as a cafeteria, reading rooms, library, 71 dormitory rooms, locker rooms, gymnasium and spectators gallery, social rooms and offices. The more formal front portion of the building is nearly triangular, dictated by the wedge-shaped lot, and is comprised of residential rooms and larger meeting rooms, offices and service areas. The rear portion contains the gymnasium and pool. Decorative tiling was used throughout the building, especially in the pool room and more formal areas. The building has experienced very little alteration, primarily to the main entrance and with the changing functions of some of the rooms. Today, the YMCA building continues to embody the strong community ties and associations it has historically with the people of Cumberland.

The Cumberland YMCA is located at 205 Baltimore Ave. Call 301-724-5445 for information on programs and services offered. Portions of the building are open to the public during regular business hours.

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