Image Ownership: Public Domain
This Seattle branch of the YMCA is located at 23rd Avenue and East Madison Street. The site was formerly used as a tennis club by members of the community. The property was owned by the Colman family, long-time supporters of the YMCA. Members of the black community persuaded the owners to deed the property to the YMCA and in 1936 the modest building and grounds became a new branch of the Seattle YMCAs.
During the World War II years the East Madison YMCA became an Armed Services YMCA for black servicemen and catered largely to them. Under the leadership of John Copeland in the mid 1940s, the Y reached out to the schools and with increased youth programs began to attract more and more young people. The programs and facility grew even more under the leadership of Meredith Mathews.
In 1965 a sturdy, modern structure, designed by black architect Leon Bridges, was built to include a gymnasium, swimming pool, activity rooms and offices.
It was remodeled and enlarged in 1991.
In December 1993, the YMCA of Greater Seattle Board of Directors named the branch the Meredith Mathews East Madison Branch of the YMCA in recognition of Mr. Mathews’ outstanding contribution to the YMCA and to the Seattle community. This is the first YMCA facility of Greater Seattle to be named for an individual.
Mary T. Henry, Tribute: Seattle Public Places Named for Black People (Seattle: Statice Press, 1997).