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 The Ann Arbor YMCA from 1858 to 2008
The Ann Arbor YMCA 1858-2008
The Ann Arbor YMCA from 1858 to 2008: Serving the Ann Arbor Community for 150 Years

    The Ann Arbor YMCA will celebrate 150 years of community service with an historical display at the Washtenaw County Historical Society's Museum on Main Street starting Wednesday, September 17, 2008. The YMCA's collection of photographs, documents, memorabilia and video interviews with local citizens traces the start of the first YMCA by University of Michigan students to the Ann Arbor YMCA of today.
    One of the oldest organizations in Ann Arbor, the YMCA initially served as a place where male students could meet to socialize and hold Bible studies. Over time, the YMCA merged with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) to form an organization where men, women and children of all ages, races, incomes and religions enjoy a variety of recreational programs.
The YMCA exhibit is organized into three distinct areas:

    History and Mission of the YMCA in Ann Arbor depicts the founding of the YMCA by university students in 1858 and opening of Lane Hall by the UM-YMCA in 1917. Lane Hall was funded in part by John D. Rockefeller and named for Judge Victor Lane (1852-1930), a Circuit Court judge in Adrian Michigan from 1888-1897 and University of Michigan law professor from 1897-1928. Lane served as president of the University YMCA for many years.

    In 1892, the City YMCA was chartered and eventually housed in a new building on North Fourth Avenue from 1904-1959. The exhibit also shows photographs and original documents for the YWCA, which was founded in Ann Arbor in 1894 and eventually housed in the Christian Mack residence on South Fourth Avenue from 1913 to 1959. The YWCA provided rooms, an employment bureau and classes for young women.
   Wendell Lyons (1916-1986), Executive Secretary of the YMCA from 1951 - 1963, was the architect of the movement to merge the Ann Arbor YMCA and YWCA. During the early 1950s the boards of directors of both the YMCA and YWCA recognized the need for new buildings for their respective organizations, and they decided to legally merge into one organization in 1956. The idea of combining these boards was innovative for its time and resulted in the new merged organization being disaffiliated with the National Board of the YWCA.
        James (1886-1957) and Verna (1900-1978) Parker were instrumental in the history of the merger of the YM and YWCA in the 1950s. Prior to the YM-YWCA merger, James was Chairman of the Building Committee. He headed the fundraising campaign in 1956 that raised over $1,000,000 within a seven-week period. James Parker did not live to see the new building become a reality; he died in 1957. Verna Parker served in many capacities as a board member of the YWCA. She was president of the board of the merged YM-YWCA from 1956-1959.
   Known first as the YM-YWCA and later as the Ann Arbor Y, the new building opened in 1960. The YMCA on South Fifth Avenue was renovated four times and added onto twice between 1959 and 2005. The many transitions in this building were the result of attempts to accommodate social trends of the last 40 years, including an increased emphasis on families, fitness and organized activities.  

Hattie A.T. Crippen (1863- 1955) was the daughter of Methodist Minister John W. Crippen (1833-1909) and Esther Crippen (1838-1916). Both Hattie and her mother were charter members of the Ann Arbor chapter of the YWCU (later YWCA). They attended the first meeting of the YWCA in 1894, and Hattie became the first president of the Ann Arbor association shortly thereafter. It was a position that she held for five years. "During the first years the activities consisted largely of evening classes in the three R's for those whose schooling had been curtailed by economic necessity, of social good times, and of homelike hours of worship on Sunday afternoons.' City directory listings from 1888-1892 show that Hattie was a teacher before the organization was formed; she continued to teach throughout her term at the YWCA. After her parents' death, Hattie continued to live in the family home on Ann Street, taking in boarders. She never married. Hattie died in Saline on December 26, 1955. She is buried alongside her parents at Forest Hill Cemetery in Ann Arbor. Hattie's notes for teaching English grammar and a lecture on the history of tea are among the items that will be on display at the exhibit.

    Spirit, Mind, Body: Programs at the YMCA displays memorabilia from the YMCA's sports and fitness programs, including basketball and volleyball items. Volleyball, which was invented at the Holyoke, Massachusetts YMCA in 1895 by instructor William Morgan, was a mix of basketball, tennis and handball, originally called "mintonette". The name "volleyball" came into use in 1896 during an exhibition at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, to describe how the ball went back and forth over the net. In 1922, YMCAs held their first national championship in the game. This championship became the U.S. Open in 1924, when non-YMCA teams also competed.
    Viggo Nelson (1895-1971) introduced competitive volleyball to Ann Arbor. He was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in the late 1990s. Viggo served as YMCA General Secretary in Ann Arbor (1919-1931/1934/1936). He was also the Camp Birkett Boys Work Secretary in 1920 and Camp Director (1921-1922.)
Character Values and Youth Development. Summer Camps
features displays from the Ann Arbor YMCAs summer camps, including Camp Birkett, Camp Takona and Camp Al-Gon-Quian.

    Camp Birkett is the oldest organized camp in Washtenaw County. Thomas Birkett of Dexter deeded the property, which consists of 11 acres of woods and lake frontage on the east shores of Silver Lake, to the City YMCA in 1914. In 1920, the camp was gifted to the Ann Arbor YMCA, and from 1922 to 1933, the local Kiwanians upgraded the waterfront and built sleeping lodges, a handicraft cabin, a tennis court, and a sanitary system. Originally an all-boys camp, Birkett became a co-ed day camp after the merger of the YMCA and the YWCA in 1959.

Camp Takona
, located in Grass Lake near Chelsea, was an all-girls camp owned by the YWCA. The camp first held six-week sessions for up to 40 girls ages 10-16 years old. Each summer the camp held an extra session to enable underprivileged children from the Family Welfare Bureau to take part in recreational and social activities. By the mid-1950s, the camp had both a residence program for girls ages 9-13 and a day camp program for younger girls ages 6-9. In 1972, the Ann Arbor Community Center purchased Camp Takona from the YM-YWCA.
    Camp Al-Gon-Quian, located on Burt Lake in northern Lower Michigan, has been in operation since 1926. It began as an all-boys camp run by Herb Twining. The YMCA acquired Camp Al-Gon-Quian in 1968 from Herb Twining's family, and the camp became co-ed in 1969. The camp remains a "...second and never-forgotten home to many." Its 150 acres include wooded areas and shoreline for activities such as swimming, sailing, canoeing, horseback riding, archery, nature study, crafts, and sports.

    The Ann Arbor YMCA's 150th anniversary exhibit runs from Wednesday, September 17 - Saturday, November 22 2008.

This article originally appeared in Impressions, September 2008.
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