About the McBurney Y
The first permanent home of the McBurney branch of the New York YMCA began as the headquarters of the New York Association in 1869. The French Renaissance building, designed by notable New York architect James Renwick, Jr., and renamed the 23rd Street YMCA in 1887, was the first purpose-built YMCA building in the U.S. In 1904 the 23rd Street Y moved west to 7th Avenue, into a state-of-the art building--with a roof garden, a cork running track, and a marble lined swimming pool--widely considered the finest YMCA building in the United States. In 1943 the branch was renamed in honor of Robert Ross McBurney, an Irish immigrant who rose from librarian of the New York Association in 1862 to chief executive in 1883, a post he held until his death in 1898.
The branch boasted a significant educational mission, housing the Chelsea School, a college prep school, and the New York Law School from 1920 to 1933. In 1973, McBurney began offering full physical education programs for women, as did West Side, Vanderbilt, and Flushing Ys. In 2002 the McBurney branch relocated to West 14th Street, and the former McBurney YMCA in Chelsea was acquired by the state of New York and transformed into 207 units of special needs housing.
The McBurney branch prides itself on its long history and its famous members. Merrill met Lynch in its swimming pool in 1913 and author and playwright William Saroyan stayed in the guest rooms when he came to New York in 1928. Other notable members have included Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward Albee, pop artists Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, and Academy Award-winning actor Al Pacino.