Dryades Street Library and YMCA

Today home to the Dryades YMCA, this beautiful building, erected in 1915, was the first New Orleans Public Library created to serve black New Orleanians and had the capacity to hold 10,000 books.

In the early 1900s, New Orleans public libraries only permitted white people and black attorneys to use their facilities. This policy was a cause for great concern among the black community. James Hardy Dillard, Tulane professor and advocate for African American education, persuaded the Andrew Carnegie Foundation to donate $25,000 for the construction of a library for black New Orleanians. [1,2]

The Dryades Street Library opened on October 24, 1915. [3] The library's opening ceremony was cause for great celebration and numerous black civic leaders spoke at the event. [1, 2]

In addition to circulating books and providing popular educational programming for children and adults, the Dryades Library became home to civic meetings, including the Negro Board of Trade, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA.) [1, 2]

In 1955, under the leadership of Rosa Keller, the board of the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) desegregated the NOPL system. [4] In 1965, Dryades Street Library closed due to damages wrought by Hurricane Betsy. The YMCA purchased the building and converted into a community center that is still in use today. [2]



1924 Phillip Street, New Orleans, LA 70113