Young Men's Christian Association

The Young Men's Christian Association was organized June 6, 1866, with these officers: President, Moreau S. Crosby; vice-president, J. T. Miller; recording secretary, C. E. Hulbert; corresponding secretary, The Reverend J. Morgan Smith; treasurer, H. W. Slocum. Meetings were held in the chapel of the First Congregational Church, but in August diverted to Mills & Clancy's hall, and a reading room rented. A relief department for the needy poor was organized. Headquarters were at 30 Canal (Monroe) street, 1867 to 1870, when legal incorporation was effected. In 1871 the association took rooms opposite the Widdicomb building.

Under the new constitution, created in 1874, a broader scope of work was undertaken, to include open-air services and jail work. In 1875 offices were occupied in the Ledyard block and regular services conducted at the Union Passenger station, Luce's Hall, Powers Opera House, and Berkey & Gay's salesroom. IN 1878 the G.R. & I. placed under the care of the Y.M.C.A. a reading room near the Union station, for railroad men. In February, 1883, the association moved to more commodious quarters in the Godfrey block on Ionia avenue, and In March of that year work for boys was begun. In 1884 the Livingston block was purchased and held for the organization by two staunch friends. This was abandoned, however, when the association failed to meet the purchase price.

In 1885 activities became devoted exclusively to young men, and work at the jail and for railroad employes was given up. Julius Berkey then leased a lot on the northwest corner of Pearl street and Ottawa avenue, upon which a two-story building costing less than $1,800 was formally opened January 18, 1886. Immediately evening classes, lecture courses and gymnastic privileges were available and the membership was more than doubled. In September, 1888, the lot on the northwest corner of Pearl street and Ionia avenue was secured and the old dwelling house on that site occupied. In 1892 a new building costing, with its equipment, $100,000, was erected. This building outgrown, funds were sought in May, 1913, for a new and larger home, a campaign being met with a $300,000 subscription. The building at Pearl and Ionia was sold. The present fine "Y" on Library street was erected and was opened in 1915 to a much larger membership, which stands today at over 2,000.

Present equipment includes two fine gymnasiums, a swimming pool and extensive dormitories for young men residents. Officers: President, Edwin Owen; vice-presidents, Philo C. Fuller and H. M. Taliaferro; treasurer, Gilbert L. Daane; recording secretary, Russell Weigle.

Document Source: Etten, William J., A Citizens' History of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Published by A. P. Johnson for the Campau Centennial Committee, 1926.
Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
Created: 10 December 1999