Young Men's Christian Association building
YMCA building, south and east fašades, drawing, ca. 1867
YMCA building, between 1867 and 1886 (Credit: Library of Congress)
YMCA building, Lincoln Hall, 1871
YMCA building, containing Lincoln Hall auditorium (31)Northeast corner, 9th and D streets, NW
Constructed in 1867, burned 1886
Organized in 1852, the Washington branch of the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) provided Bible readings and lectures and ministered to wounded soldiers in the Civil War.
In 1867, under the presidency of General O.O. Howard, head of the Freedman's Bureau, the group decided to build its own quarters and chose Cluss and Kammerhueber as the architects. Cluss received a payment of $1,950 in July 1867. In November 1867, Cluss contributed $50 towards a subscription campaign, but at the dedication in 1869, the Evening Star identified Thomas Plowman as the builder as well as the architect. Cluss did not include this building on any of his listings of public buildings that he designed, also suggesting that he began this project, but for some reason, did not finish it.
Lincoln Hall, which seated 1,300 people, was Washington's major venue for performances and speakers and for many school commencements. In the 1870s, the Washington Universalists also used the building for their church services, until the congregation built its own Church of Our Father, also designed by Cluss. Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, an expert in the field, said the acoustic qualities of the hall were "perfect".
In 1881 the YMCA moved from the building after losing majority control of the stock. In 1886, a fire badly damaged the building. Rebuilt in 1888, it was then known as Herzog's Museum.
To build the YMCA, the Hudson Taylor house had to be demolished. Cluss preserved a photograph of the house, which he presented to the Historical Society of Washington in 1902.