BNHA YMCA (Druid Hill Avenue)

Interpretive Framework

Gaining Freedom for All: African American Heritage and the Struggle for Equality

Star Attractions

Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail

Resource Type

Points of Interest

1609 Druid Hill Ave

Baltimore, Maryland 21217

A diversity of businesses and institutions in West Baltimore gave birth to such venerable institutions as Provident Hospital and the Colored Branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The first Colored YMCA meeting occurred in 1885 at Union Baptist Church. Frederick Douglass headlined the three-day event. In 1910 Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and devoted philanthropist, offered $25,000 in matching funds to all black YMCAs in the United States, spurring a nationwide fund-raising campaign that resulted in the construction of 24 buildings for African Americans. The plan in Baltimore was to raise $25,000; instead the city raised $31,000. With these funds, the Colored YMCA grew from organizational meetings in private homes to the current facility on Druid Hill Avenue.

In 1895 eight spirited African American women, all members of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Druid Hill Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), became interested in forming a “colored” YWCA. Work began when Sarah Charity discussed the idea with fellow auxiliary member Mary E. Bright. They were joined by Martha Howard Murphy (wife of the publisher of The Afro-American Newspapers), Sarah A. Murphy, Frances Murphy, Mary E Cooper, Novella Rayne, and Maggie Ridley.

The group founded their branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in a rented house at 324 West Biddle Street. In 1896, the YWCA moved to the corner of Dolphin Street and Druid Hill Avenue and began to provide employment services, relief to unwed mothers, and classes in stenography and typing. In 1897 an employment bureau was created. In 1902 a 12-room house at 1200 Druid Hill Avenue was purchased. Forty years later they bought a building on Madison Avenue from the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation for $20,000 and invested $100,000 in renovations, with a 1945 building dedication as Baltimore’s YWCA.