Founded in 1844 in London, England, by George Williams, the Young Men's Christian Association quickly grew in the United States with Harrisburg, in 1854, being one of the first eight cities in the nation to establish a chapter. Located at various sites in the downtown during the last half of the 19th Century, the YMCA erected its first headquarters building in 1902 at the southwest corner of Second and Locust Streets. By 1931, the "Y" had outgrown that building and a year later completed the present magnificently appointed structure at N. Front and North Streets on what had been the site of the Harrisburg Cotton Factory. erected in 1850, the factory was Harrisburg's first industry that was modeled after the textile plants of New England and was established to help enhance the city's industrial base by providing work for women and children so as to maximize the earning power of Harrisburg families. With the supply of cotton cut off from the South during the Civil War, the factory temporarily served as a wartime hospital and by the 1880's, as a silk mill until its demise in the late 1920's. Designed by the Harrisburg architectural firm of Lawrie and Green, the replacement structure serving as the YMCA building is truly an impressive edifice of the Italian Romanesque style, incorporating elements from various baptisteries, cathedrals and churches in northern Italy. It was the YMCA's mission to have its buildings emulate sacred architecture to reflect the Christian principals of the organization. Highlighted with decorative stonework and terracotta trim, the "Y" headquarters continues to serve the community in the development of mind, body and spirit.
19th Century view of the Harrisburg Cotton Factory's North Street facade.
1920 view of the old Harrisburg Cotton Factory, by then the Harrisburg Silk Mill, looking northeast at Front and North Streets.