Your Mom Cooks Asparagus


In 1908, the Madison YMCA was dedicated. About 20 percent of the funds were donated by James Webb (who was indeed a James but NOT one of the famed Jameses of Madison).

Date unknown; mid-to-late 1910s?

Most unfortunately, Mr. James Webb died just two years later.

Cunningham, John T. (1998). Images of America: Madison. Arcadia Publishing: Dover, NH.


2 Comments to “Your Mom Cooks Asparagus”

  1. Here’s an interesting fact: Around the time that this YMCA was built (early 20th Century), the YMCA was among the wealthiest religious organizations operating in the US. During this time, they went on a building binge, erecting a number of similarly detailed, sturdy structures: generally well detailed and ornamented in the Beaux Arts tradition but not overly lavish. Often as this one is, detailed with a dark reddish brown (“Harvard brick”) and (Indiana?) limestone trim, occasional copper-clad cornicing and orther details (that often doesn’t survive).
    Why build? One unofficial reason was that during the building boom, there was a (non-Protestant) immigration explosion (all passing through Ellis Island). The YMCA sought to keep the less fortunate (and often recently arrived) out of trouble. Youthful idle time without an outlet led to trouble and the possibility of unwed mothers. So YMCAs were built within which young men would want to spend time: off the streets and away from women. YWCAs were also built, but not in such numbers–because women generally behaved themselves. This structure is the brick and mortar realization of a private non-profit initiative at social policy/population control. See also Jacob Riis and the municpal creation of Columbus Park (formerly called Mulberry Bend Park) in Little Italy, NYC. Architecturally speaking, there’s a lot to be said about the design of the facade with round-headed surrounds continuing down into the substancial plinth/watertable defining the raised basement. The visual cue is that of something anchored to the site: typical of a building typology broadcasting security and steadfastness, like a bank, town hall, post office, police station, or prison. The facade’s tripartite grouping of arches also can be read as an arcade typical of 18th-century European market houses that were inviting centers of community life.

    • I kind of wish we could digitize you into an automatic on-demand architecture identifier.

      Beaux Arts, huh.

      There’s a YWCA somewhere around here. I should hunt it down.

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