Seamen’s House YMCA

550 West 20th Street
Shreve, Lamb & Harmon

An embodiment of Chelsea’s working waterfront, the Seaman’s House YMCA was built to serve merchant sailors whose ships were docked along the Hudson. Along with clean rooms, its gymnasium, pool, cafeteria, and chapel were aimed at diverting seamen from the less savory establishments available in the area. Shreve, Lamb & Harmon is most famous for designing the Empire State Building, completed just a year earlier. Their Art Deco YMCA makes a design motif of the organization’s triangular logo and features stylized, nautical-themed, polychrome terra cotta ornament. The building maintains a strong presence at the intersection of 11th Avenue and 20th Street, with its chamfered corner and monumental entrance. It operated as a YMCA until 1966. The property was sold to New York State and operated as a correctional facility from 1974-2012.