The 90-year-old downtown Y is in its death throes this weekend.

This is the final day for the institution that since 1923 stood handsomely on the corner of the Post Road and Main Street. (And, less elegantly, on Church Lane since 1978.) It has withstood floods, hurricanes, Prohibition, the rise of post-war suburbia and the decline of mom-and-pop shops — plus much, much more.

Tomorrow, the Y is outta there. The new Mahackeno facility — bright, shiny, fresh, airy and modern — opens at 5:30 a.m.

We will miss plenty about the downtown Y. Like this:

YMCA in spring

And this:

YMCA original

And this:

YMCA lobby 1923There’s plenty we won’t miss, though. Like this:

blog - Y 1

And this:

blog - Y 2

And this:

blog - Y 3

A new day is dawning.

At Mahackeno — and downtown.

21 responses to “RIP, Y

  1. What happens to the grand old lady( or gentleman) of the corner now?

  2. This:
    The facades of both the Y’s original Bedford Building and the old Central Firehouse next door will be preserved, and as we’ve heard the Kemper-Gunn house will be moved across Elm St. A bright new day is dawning, indeed, for both downtown and the new Y at Mahackeno!

    • Wendy Crowther

      Though I’m glad that the facades of both buildings will be preserved, there are also original features INSIDE these buildings that should be preserved and reworked into the new interiors (or at the very least they should be removed and preserved elsewhere). I worked at the Westport Y for 13 years (was director of the the newly-built fitness center that now sits in the old firehouse building). I know those buildings inside and out. I hope Mr. Waldman and his demo crew will be sensitive and careful as they remove interior features. There are a lot of small, special, and even secret places and items throughout the buildings that warrant special care, documentation, and preservation.

      I’m also wondering if Mr. Weeks will be given any nod of recognition at the new Y. His money helped fund the Y’s Week’s Pavilion back in the day. Though the addition seemed so modern and welcomed then, the building’s layout was awkward by design (and certainly financial corners were cut to get it built). Today it is the subject of Dan’s photos – long, ugly corridors, etc. However, I hate to see names like Mr. Weeks’ buried and forgotten. Mr, Week’s portrait hangs in the Week’s Pavilion Lobby. Will there be a place for it in the new Y?

      Gil Vogel taught fitness classes at the Y for decades. During my tenure at the Y, I had one of the gyms named after him – had a plaque honoring him placed outside that gym. I hope that plaque is finding a home at the new Y too.

      Does Scott Smith know, or anyone else?

      • Hi, Wendy — In response to your question and Bettina’s further down: With Miggs Burroughs’ curatorial help, we carefully catalogued our many plaques and pieces of Y history prior to our move. From the large oil painting of Edward T. Bedford to the portrait of Mr. Weeks (which needs renovation) to the plaques for Gil Vogel, Matt Johnson, Ken Montgomery and many others, we’ll carefully remove them and then find suitable new places for them in our new Y. They are important parts of our legacy and will continue to be!

        • Wendy Crowther

          Thanks, Scott. Good to know. Let’s hope that the renovations that take place to the interiors of the buildings will also be conscientiously considered for retention and/or re-working by the new owner/developer. A series of new plaques within the renovated structure(s) could provide a historical overview of the Y’s past. Examples might be: “This area once housed the Brophy Pool” or “This section of the building once included the Upper Gym, formerly called the Auditorium, where boxing matches and plays took place.”

          As renovations begin, I’m hoping Bedford Square Associates will care about these things.

  3. The Y was such an important place for me growing up in Westport in the late 50th and 60th. It is where I hung out after school, learned to play pool, swam, took care of smaller kids, made new friends and got away from my mother. Life is about letting go, I know. I am just glad that I had a chance to have years of joy in the downtown Y rather than all the way up the Wilton Road. Lidy Engel class of ’64.

  4. Thomas Orofino

    Unfortunately so Dan. It will be missed, this will finalize Main street’s transition into an outdoor mall versus a friendly downtown meeting place.

  5. Michael Calise

    The final nail in the coffin will be the loss of Jessup Green

  6. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    It’ll be a nice place to visit but who will want to live there?

  7. For a lot of us the neighborhood Y, no matter where we lived, was an important part of grwing up. My two brothers , my parents , and I lived in a very small house in Rochester, NY. We had a bath tub and no shower — what were three active teen age boys to do? Well a block away was the neighborhood Y. It was a place to swim, play basketball, join the HiY Club and take a shower. Showers were doubly important for me as I worked in a foundry my first year after high school and the job was very dirty. so I showered every day at the Y. And right next to the Y was a branch library.
    For me that was a double treat.

  8. The original building is truly beautiful!

  9. Bettina Gangi

    Like others I am wondering about acknowledgment of those who contributed so much to the Y, especially the Weeks family and others already mentioned and yet to be mentioned. Like Wendy, I am concerned about how some of the interior can be integrated with what is to come. Someone already mentioned the notion of a downtown mall…there is no reason why the present Y structure cannot be an integral part of such a mall, but some architectural changes will have to be made to the existing buildings on downtown Main Street. Just hope the designers for the downtown mall project have an improved vision, at least more so than those who decided to plop the old and lovely dwelling in the middle of the parking lot by the Seabury Center.

  10. I’m sorry to see my first office as a development professional disappear – I had a view right over Main Street, just around the corner from Dick Foot’s office!

  11. Very curious to see how the traffic on Wilton Road and Exit 41 on the Merritt Parkway handles this new super complex. Though, never in favor of this move, and still believe it truly was not a good move for the fabric of our community, the surrounding waters of Lee’s Pond and the neighborhoods abutting this commercial complex in a AAA residential zone; we can only wish the Y the best of luck in serving our community as we move forward.

  12. Hey David Waldman….why don’t you auction off the architectural elements of the Y and donate the proceeds to a local charity? It could be a great community event.

    • David A. Waldman

      We are still looking into the opportunity of retaining a large amount of the interior architectural elements into the final development but if for some reason we cannot, I am sure we will be able to find appropriate homes for the items.