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Signs to commemorate vanished ‘Y’

The McGaw YMCA and Shorefront are planning a public art display to commemorate the former Emerson Street YMCA.

A design for one of the proposed street signs.

The McGaw YMCA and Shorefront are planning a public art display to commemorate the former Emerson Street YMCA.

A design for one of the proposed street signs.

Under the plan, approved this week by the Evanston’s Human Services Committee, the organizations would post aluminum signs printed with photos of the old Y and the adjacent Butler Livery Stable on 20 light poles on the downtown block surrounding the former sites of the two buildings that played a key role in the city’s African-American community.

As described in a memo to the committee, the signs would be about 20-by-12 inches in size and would be mounted to face the sidewalk. They would form a temporary exhibit that would be removed after three years.

The Emerson Y was established in 1909 after blacks were refused admission to the main Y on Grove Street, and operated until 1969. The livery stable was one of the most prominent early black-owned businesses in the city.

Another planned sign.

The cost of the project is to be covered by the McGaw Y, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, and Shorefront. The groups also plan to produce a brochure providing more details about the subjects of the photos.

The city’s Public Art Committee recommended approval of the project earlier this spring.

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