Naperville's Kroehler YMCA building facing wrecking ball

Nearly six months after a failed attempt to have the Kroehler YMCA facility registered as a historical landmark, the iconic location in downtown Naperville is being demolished to clear the way for the property to be sold and developed.

Work began about two weeks ago to tear down the structure that's sat dormant since shutting down in June 2020 due to the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Naperville Preservation tried in February to save the structure, located at 34 S. Washington St., but the city council voted 8-1 to deny the landmark request.

Fry Family YMCA Executive Director Stephanie Kuzelis and Erika Wood, executive director of YMCA Safe 'n Sound, issued a joint statement recognizing the memories cherished by residents, as the focus of the YMCA of Metro Chicago shifts to the Fry Family YMCA on 95th Street.

"In recent weeks, we've seen our neighbors rally to lift up the memory of the Kroehler YMCA facility," the two said in the statement. "For 112 years, it was a place where many Napervillians made lifelong friends, discovered their passions and felt a sense of belonging.

"What we've also seen is that the YMCA doesn't just exist inside four walls. It's a community."

YMCA officials said the Kroehler YMCA facility had been losing $400,000 a year and required millions of dollars in work because of deferred maintenance. YMCA officials said an unnamed developer is lined up to buy the property, but the deal was contingent on being able to raze the facility.

A sale of the site, according to YMCA officials, may bring in $1.6 million that could be put toward services at the Fry Family YMCA.

An attempt is being made to preserve historic elements of the building for possible use in its future design, including the cornerstone and the lintel over the front door engraved with "YMCA."

Among the artifacts collected by the YMCA and Naper Settlement are 300 original bricks that can be purchased by the public for a minimum donation of $112. A plaque with an inscription will be included on the bricks, which will be available in the fall.

Anyone interested in purchasing a brick should call (630) 904-9595. Proceeds will be used to support scholarships for people in programs at Fry Family YMCA and Safe 'n Sound.

  Demolition is well underway at the Kroehler YMCA facility in downtown Naperville, which was built in 1910. Kevin Schmit/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.