YMCA gears up for 150th anniversary

NORWICH – As the 150th anniversary of the Norwich YMCA nears, so too does the need for community members to share their experiences with the YMCA. For a century and a half, the Norwich YMCA has helped enrich the lives of youngsters and steer them in the right direction. For some, the influence of the YMCA has even meant the difference between a life of crime, bad choices and hardships, and a life filled with success. For others, the YMCA has simply represented a great place to hang out after school or during free time.

Regardless of the degree of influence the YMCA has, it has been a big part of the community for a very long time. The time has come for people to share their experiences in celebration of the YMCA’s long history of service to the community. In advance of the YMCA’s community celebration on Nov. 3, The Evening Sun will publish a special section during the last week in October chronicling the YMCA’s rich history and highlighting its present-day contributions to the community. This newspaper is asking its readership to submit their own “YMCA Memories” for possible inclusion in this piece. To contribute, send your own essays to The Evening Sun via email to news@evesun.com with “YMCA Memories” in the subject line. Please include your name and address. Submissions will also be gathered via The Evening Sun’s Facebook page; stay tuned for details.

The following essay was written in 1928 by a Norwich High School student for a senior English class project chronicling the early history of Norwich. The author traces the origin and the early development of the Norwich YMCA before describing the current state of the YMCA in 1928.

Senior Essays NHS History of Norwich 1928

History of the YMCA of Norwich

“The first Young Men’s Christian Association in Norwich was organized in 1862, at a meeting held at the home of C.R. Johnson. Mr. H.S. Ward was chosen president and C.R. Johnson secretary. The association did not have a building of its own and held meetings at a different place each time. The association did not progress very rapidly and the meetings were poorly attended. At the end of the first year. there were fifty-eight members, fifty-one that were active and seven honorary.

The O&W Young Men’s Christian Association was organized in 1886, in the O&W depot by a group of railroad men. The association was poorly equipped, and they held their meetings upstairs in the O&W depot. There were about six cots and chairs used by the men from other divisions, that were donated by the O&W railroad company.

In 1888 a charter was issued to the uptown Young Men’s Christian Association by I. David and L. Follett, members of the Supreme Court. The object of the association was to improve physical, mental, and spiritual conditions of the young men of the city of Norwich, with the maintenance of a library, gymnasium and reading rooms. A Board of Directors was appointed with Dr. L. J. Brooks as president, W.C. Moulton as secretary, and C.H. Stanton as treasurer.

At this time the association held its meetings in Summer’s Hall, called the Academy of Music. The gymnasium was on the top floor, and the office on the floor just below. In 1896 the association moved its room to Clark’s opera house.

In 1898 the Uptown YMCA was dedicated. The building was first used as a residence and owned by S.A. Jones. The association bought the building with the aid of Mrs. Harriet Gibson, a wealthy person, who in her will left a gift of ten thousand dollars that made possible the purchase of the building. There was a mortgage on the building that was paid off in 1921 at an annual meeting. The meeting was assisted by the Norwich High School orchestra, and there were several speakers on the program. The meeting was very enthusiastic and well attended.

The Uptown YMCA has a gymnasium, bowling alley, showers, library and reading rooms. In a room downstairs there are games played such as checkers, ping-pong, and dominoes. In a room upstairs there are pool tables used by members that are over seventeen years of age. The present membership fee is five dollars. A.T. Brown, present secretary, has charge of the building, gives exercises, and holds games in his gym classes. The building is kept in good condition throughout the entire year.

In 1901 the O&W YMCA. was dedicated. The building was built by the O&W railroad company. Mr. F.P. Browne as secretary has taken care of the work and also of the building.

The O&W YMCA. has dormitories, and showers for those that come from different divisions. The building is provided with a library and reading room. In 1909 the building was used as a hospital for the workmen of the O&W Railroad company. The building at one time contained twenty-eight patients that were injured while working. In 1903 the membership fee was changed from three dollars to five dollars for each member. In the past two years the membership has increased eight and one-half percent. The building is supported by the O&W Railroad Company and is open day and night.

Information obtained from: Mr. E. E. Davis, Mr. A. T. Brown, Mr. F. P. Browne.

By J. Caravaglio.”

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