Eugenia Woods Goes.....
(Article for the Old Northeast Journal)
We all know this building as it's been a popular hot topic these past few weeks. Wrought with impending doom, the Historic YMCA still stand proudly on 5th Street South awaiting it's fate. Will the wrecking ball have it's way or will this gem be salvaged and preserved to share for generations to come?
The Y was a communal place for everyone starting back from 1926, a pivotal time in St. Pete's history as it was the center of a boom era, building and bustling and becoming what St. Pete is today. The Y was for the community. Everyone has stories from the Y, whether they took swimming lessons there, boxing, basketball, propelled off the side of the building or were members of the Flying Fish Club (yes, there was such a thing). This building housed so many activities in it's hey-day that it became the largest community funded building in this town.
So that's all great, but what is going to become of the Y? I had the opportunity, like many, to go exploring the grounds of this amazing building recently and met with man spearheading the campaign to save the Y, Tom Nestor and we chatted about what his plan is. Tom, a tall wiry man whose passion for this building seeps from his pores, says he has fallen in love with this place. His passion for the Y has driven him for the past year (plus) in trying to save it from peril. He has beaten the odds, so far, and will continue to fight for this beauty's preservation and for it's future. Speaking of it's future, what will it be if it is indeed, preserved? A Rock and Roll Museum that highlights local music and film history and promotes “one-of-a-kind (you know I love that phrase) interactive music & video experiences for all ages, featuring live performances, concerts and special events from up & coming artists, along with digital presentations and educational exhibits from local popular historians.” The museum will be a space for showcasing of local talent, education, interactivity and community. Sound familiar? Sound like what the Y did all those years for many generations of St. Petersburgers? In addition, the museum will also be open to the public for live concert events and even have a dance club that incorporates all four floors, open on the weekends. The Y will also open it's doors to people who wish to rent the space(s) for weddings, special events, etc.
Excited? I kinda am! I think it's great that someone has taken more than just an interest into this building but wants to breathe a new life into the building. Instead of preserving it for preservation sake, Nestor and his posse are taking it a step further by molding the past with the present and future and making the Y a new memorable place for generations to come.
If you wish to be of help in this new venture, the Y is not out of the trenches yet and needs donations and support. Please take the time to visit www.HistoricYMCA.com. The website highlights it's plans for preservation and for the future museum and what you can do to help. Please consider this as I firmly believe that St. Petersburg cannot afford to lose another historical building. Our city has character and part of that character are historical buildings, like the stunning YMCA, that shed light on our past as a community and hopefully a light to our future.
Written by Rebekah Lazaridis and published in the Old Northeast Journal Jan 2013