It’s fun to stay at the YMCA

While leafing through a 1930s Daily News, I came across this ad for single rooms “for transient young men” at the YMCA’s William Sloane House. Intrigued, I did a little research. 

Turns out the 1600-room William Sloane Memorial WMCA, built in 1930 down the street from Penn Station, was a clean, safe, popular place for men to live upon first arriving in New York City. Soldiers frequently checked in; a military uniform acted as a free pass to stay in the 14-story building (not that 75 cents a night was going to break the bank back then).

This mid-century postcard of Sloane House comes with a handy neighborhood map.

By the 1980s, the building was mostly empty; in the early 1990s, only 20 percent of its rooms were occupied, mainly by students and tourists traveling on the cheap. The Y closed it for good in 1991. It is now an apartment building.

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12 Responses to “It’s fun to stay at the YMCA”

  1. peter he Says:

    sloane house should be preserve for its history…i wrote a blog about my experience at sloane house during late 80’s…

  2. gilles Says:

    Thanks for this post!

    I stayed at the Y a few times in my twenties in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
    I don’t remember it being empty by that time. I was wondering what it’d become and there’s your answer…

    This was some place! Some people used to call it “Slum House”. I saw a shapely little black rat slide under my door once and disappear under the closet through some mysterious gallery. Being rather absent minded, I also remember taking the stairway to the 14th floor (for it took ages to get a lift) and wondering at how fast it went from 12th to 14th, until I realised that there was no 13th floor “namely” for the sake of superstition.

    There was a great mix of people, old, young, ‘transient’ young people like me, people living there, coming from all over the USA and the world. It was a beehive with a lot going on, dance, music, group therapy, people writing, reading, chatting, cruising. I was both horrified by the decay and fascinated by the melancholy; years and decades of endless migrations through the lobby, the floors, the lounges, the stairs, pervaded the atmosphere. Somehow, it was a little bit like being on a big ship for a few days. Seen from a distance (20 years), it retrospectively looks like a Manhattan landmark. It surely put a seal on my first visits to the Big Apple.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks for the insider’s view, it’s fascinating.

  4. peter he Says:

    here is the blog site:

  5. donna harrington Says:

    Sloane House was where I stayed on my occasional forays to N.Y. when I was a young punk rocker in the late 70’s. $10 rooms, $12 with a sink! Broken glass in the communal shower, used sanitary napkins hanging out windows…When I think back, I was crazy to stay there alone, but alcohol clouded my judgement. But back then, it was my Chelsea Hotel.

  6. JungleMan Says:

    I stayed there for a couple days in 1966, when, as a stupid college kid, I’d hitch-hiked to Elizabeth, NJ from Washington DC on a lark. Caught a shuttle from the airport into NYC and somehow found the Sloan House, till my parents could wire me money to get back to school! On a trip to NYC in 2001, I asked a cop on the beat where the place was, and he had no idea what I was talking about! -Too young to remember it, I guess!

  7. Something Neat: New York City Street Scene « Says:

    […] After a very quick Google search I learned my little voice was correct! For the reveal click here. NOTE: be sure to check out the comments as they will lead you to a blog written by someone who […]

  8. Robert Says:

    I lived at Sloane House for about a year in 1977-78, while I took a year off from college. For a 20-year-old country boy like me, it was a wild, sexy place, and a crash course in the New York demimonde of the time. We are living in a very, very different city now.

  9. geo macy Says:

    I arrived in NYC in 2/68 and checked into Hotel New Yorker, then a little bit down on its luck. But I needed something cheaper and went to Sloane, which was dirt cheap and had a good cafeteria. The gay scene there was great and pervasive. Lots of hallway cruising; if you wanted to be visited by a cruiser, you left your door ajar. Rampant sexua activity in the communal showers. The place was usually fully occupied. I did find an apartment, and lived in Manhattan for the next 38 years. Ah, youth!

  10. Why a Turtle Bay YMCA is the “railroad branch” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] The first YMCA opened in 1852 in Manhattan (the mission was to “provide young men new to the city a Christian alternative to the attractions of city life”), and since then, the Y has been an integral part of New York City. […]

    • Mireille Says:

      1852 mission to provide young men a Christian alternative is ironical when I read the torrid descriptions above. My husband off a 3 year army duty waited for my arrival from France on June 12-61. My ship sailed to NY City and the YMCA holds some fond memories for me
      . Hoping 61 still had some young Christian men then.

  11. Master G Says:

    I stayed here in ’69…my first visit to NYC. Rooms were $6! Paid $35 to fly stand-by on Nortwest Orient. Hair was the top musical and I saw Promise’s Promise’s with Jerry Orbach and Hello Dolly with Pearl Bailey! Rockettes were free with a movie then. I saw John Wayne in True Grit there at Radio City Music Hall. Everything was cheap then; hot dogs 25 cents; subway 10 cents; theater was on twofers. First time I had a Gyro 75 cents! Mama Leone’s was a great Italian restaurant in times square…Oh the memories!

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