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.
(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
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.
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.
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.
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.