Monday, May 19, 2014
In 2007, the YMCA of Peterborough opened their newly constructed facility south of the downtown core and sold this old historic YMCA building to a local doctor for one dollar. Ever since, it has sat vacant, tightly sealed and alarmed.
Plans to convert the building into a community centre have not come to fruition and the building has once again been listed for sale, with an asking price of $1,475,000.
The exterior walls of the original structure as well as the early additions have been assigned heritage status. It is these very outer walls that tell the story of the building's history. According to a plaque adorning the wall...
"The Young Men's Christian Association was founded in Peterborough on December 17, 1868. After a number of temporary locations, the Y's search for a larger and more suitable space ended in 1890 with a legacy of $20,000 from Mrs. Charlotte Nicholls. On March 31, 1895, plans by local architect William Blackwell were accepted and the building contract was awarded to A.A. McIntyre for $13,175. The building was completed in 1897, though many renovations and additions have occurred in the intervening years. The gymnasium is now the oldest "Y" in Canada. In 1868, with the acquisition of a Provincial Charter, the organization's official name was changed to The Peterborough Family YMCA."
As far as the rest of the building is concerned, the future is unknown.
In the mid-nineties, I was a very different person and served a fair amount of time in several young offender jails and halfway houses across the province. (For those interested, I wrote extensively about that experience in the Project Turnaround post.) One such place I was serving time just so happened to be in Peterborough, and visiting the Peterborough Family YMCA was something that we did on a regular basis. With other young offenders, I exercised on the machines and lifted free weights in the exercise rooms, both of which are now empty. I played squash on these now silent courts, void of the sound of squeaking shoes and gasps and grunts. I ran the track and played basketball in both the large Menzies gym, as well as the original gym. And I swam in the Olympic sized Minty pool that is now as empty as the rest of the building.
Having experienced this beautiful old YMCA when it was bustling with activity so many years ago, a peculiar sense of familiarity accompanied exploring it in utter silence again this year. Venturing into the off limits areas such as the sub-basement, original attic spaces, daycare and rooftops added an entirely new perspective. With the power still on and the lights still working in some areas, I couldn't help but reminisce on my own memories of this building as well as ponder it's unknown future.
Lets begin in the Olympic sized Minty pool, move on to the smaller Forbes pool, peek into the change rooms and saunas, and then descend into the sub-basement.
Come, follow me, quickly and silently.
Photo courtesy of terapr0 at tohellandback.
Now, lets ascend and make our way over to the running track above the basketball court in the original gym, which as stated above is the oldest YMCA gym in Canada.
It is on the ground floor of this original gym that we find a scale model of the building, as well as a box of numbered sketches by an unknown artist and a digitally created image of the cancelled original proposal.
Come on, stay with me. Lets move on to the weight rooms and squash courts.
Keep up with me, we've got to be quick and we still have a lot of ground to cover. Lets continue upward to the large Menzies gym.
Photo courtesy of terapr0 at tohellandback.
Now lets descend again to the daycare where cartoon images decorate the interior of the original walls, and we can climb inside the walls themselves.
Wait a second while I stop for a selfie in the activity room, where the energy of packed spin and yoga classes once filled this empty void.
Quiet. Tread lightly with each footstep as we venture into the original portion of the first floor, which has clearly been recently renovated and kept neat and tidy.
Confident that we have explored the entire building, lets go try to find out how to access the original attic and get out onto the roof, shall we?
Hey look, I found the stairs to the highest peak!
Thanks for joining us on this adventure, it was my pleasure to have you tagging along.
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