Recently, the museum received a collection of YMCA baseball uniforms.
Did you play on any of these teams? Let us know!
YMCA Senior Champions Trophy from 1930.
by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator
When the YMCA opened in the summer of 1902 on W. 6th, the editor of the the Evening Kansan Republican declared “the handsome new Y.M.C.A. building the pride of all Newton.” Roughly six years later, there was a need for a new building.
“The story of the faithfulness of Newton citizens during the closing hours of the great eleven day canvass will be told on the big thermometer. Each time $500 in subscriptions is turned in at headquarters the Eagle mill whistle will blow.”
To raise the money needed for a new building, 15 teams were organized to solicit subscriptions.
The Evening Kansan Republican noted on Nov. 16, 1908 that YMCA building fund still needed $5,000 to meet the goal. The amounts already committed for each team was published with a total of $20,090.42. More people needed to step up to meet the goal. The editor observed that
“few people seem to appreciate the gravity of the Y.M.C.A. building situation. Many similar campaigns . . . have failed at the crucial time, because the good people of the city have procrastinated and felt that even if they did not work or give that amount would be raised anyway.”
Big Thermometer at the corner of 6th & Main, Newton tracked the progress of the campaign.
The 1908 campaign for a YMCA building in Newton was ultimately successful. In eleven days, the community raised $30,000.
With the funds in place, plans for the building could go forward. Topeka architect, J.C. Holland was hired and Wurster Construction Co, Wichita was chosen as general contractor.
An open house for the community to visit the new YMCA was held early in August 1910. Visitors were “shown through the structure from basement to garret.”
Two aspects of the building were especially important, the swimming pool and the gymnasium.
“The swimming pool is one of the largest of its kind in Kansas, and certainly one of the most sanitary and best equipped. Its floor is of Venetian tile, while the sidewalls are of glazed white brick.”
The swimming pool measured 18 by 44 feet and was kept clean with a “skimmer,” which moved the water continually.
“The gymnasium hall is extra large, well lighted and ventilated, and is equipped with dozens of different kinds of apparatus.”
The gymnasium was 45 by 70 feet and “particularly appropriate for basket ball” with room for roughly one thousand spectators. In addition, there was a tennis court, room to play volleyball and “all kinds of calisthenics.”
The YMCA Board also intended to hold track meets with teams from other cities. Space for “hurdling, pole vaulting, hammer-throwing and running of all kinds” was included in the new building.
At the core, the YMCA was to be a “place for the boys” a home away from home. The organization provided opportunities for physical, mental and spiritual growth to the young men. A 1912 annual report revealed a strong connection between the organization and the community to meet these needs. A religious committee provided Bible classes that met weekly. The study was led by Rev Langenwalter from Bethel College, a man “who has made such a thorough study of the Bible, as to be most capable of teaching this class.” In addition, business classes were taught by several local men and churches took turns providing the evening meal.
The 1912 report also noted that the gymnasium saw use. In October – 796, and in November – 831, young men used the gym for gym classes. Swimming and bowling were also quite successful. Overall for the year, “the number of members that used the building for baths or physical activities” was over 1,500.
The YMCA at west 6th continued to serve Harvey County through the early 1970s.
The YMCA building on west 6th was torn down in 1975, a result of the Urban Renewal Movement of the 1960s & 70s.
New information added by Linda Koppes, former volunteer photo technician at HCHM. When she added the demolition photos of the YMCA (see above), she noticed the eyes painted on the upstairs interior wall. Recently, she found out that Eddy Seger painted the upstairs and it was a place for people to go, hang out and listen to music. The eyes were painted to highlight the local group of musicians, called “Eye 2 Eye,” that played in the space – “Newton’s coffee house.” Also, John Torline recalled that he was responsible for administering the contract for demolition. John Toews, a Holderman Mennonite, was in charge and he salvaged a great deal of the material.
by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator
The new Harvey County YMCA is scheduled to open on November 14, 2016. In an article on March 26, 2016, Shelly Conrady, vice president for marketing and communications at the Greater Wichita YMCA noted that “this will not be the first YMCA in Newton.” In fact, the organization has a long history in Harvey County.
This post is Part 1 of 2 that explores the early history of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in Newton, Kansas beginning in 1902.
“No more worthy project was ever proposed and it is sincerely hoped that the initial steps which have been taken, will eventually culminate in a Young Men’s Christian Association for Newton.” (Evening Kansan Republican, 22 Jan. 1902, p. 1.)
The purpose of the YMCA was the “improvement of the spiritual, mental, social and physical condition of young men.” The YMCA movement was part of a larger “Era of Reform” in the late 19th century with a focus on providing activities and instruction for working class men.
The movement started in London in 1844, when the first YMCA was established. In Kansas, the first YMCA was formed in Topeka in 1879. The initial steps to form a YMCA in Newton were taken in January 1902, and the editor of the Evening Kansan Republican noted that there was “no more worthy project.”
He credited “revival meetings, . . . in progress for the past three weeks,” with creating interest and support in the project. He also noted that
“it is very probable that should the citizens of the city show a disposition to raise three or four thousand . . . the Santa Fe will take hold of the matter and will double the amount raised. “
By March 1902, four men indicated they would oversee the project of a YMCA. These “public spirited” men were D.S. Welsh, G.H. Welsh, W.J. Trousdale, and Don Kinney. The location would be at the Welsh Livery on west 6th, Newton.
According to the plan, the Welsh Livery Barn would be “remodeled and converted into a modern building” with about 20 rooms. ***
The Tuesday, April 1, 1902 edition of the Evening Kansan Republican reported that the YMCA had been officially organized. An organizational meeting was held March 31 with nearly 150 men present. Those present “showed unmistakable evidence of earnestness and determination.” Officers were elected and the constitution and by-laws were adopted. Work on remodeling the Welsh Livery Barn started the next day. D.S. Welsh was a primary force behind the project, “pushing the work with the tireless energy characteristic of him.”
Several women’s clubs, like the W.C.T.U., made significant contributions of time and skill. Through their efforts, funds were raised with chicken-pie dinners sold on the Fourth of July and other activities. Various groups also volunteered by
“busily plying the needle and turning out with wonderful rapidity, sheets pillow-cases, spreads, towels, and other articles which will be used in furnishing the bed-rooms of the new institution.”
The building was complete by mid-July 1902. The YMCA featured sixteen “large and well-lighted and ventilated” sleeping-rooms, a lecture room, reading room, game room with a bowling alley, and a gymnasium. The bedrooms included “pictures, books, sofa pillows and numerous things that make a person’s room homelike and inviting.”
An open house for the YMCA building was held the evening of Nov. 5 and roughly 1500 people came to see the “handsome new Y.M.C.A. building, the pride of all Newton.”
“afforded the first opportunity to inspect . . . the unusually fine equipment in the gymnasium, reading room, parlors, and bed-rooms.”
The gymnasium was “one of the centers of attraction.” An orchestra was brought in and “members of the gymnasium class contributed to the enjoyment of the evening with an exhibition drill.”
For the women of the community, this was their only opportunity to visit the facility. Several ladies expressed “regret that they too could not enjoy the privileges of the institution” even as they admired the “neatness of the rooms and the beauty of the interior.”
Establishing a YMCA in Harvey County was a community commitment with various groups working together for the greater good. The editor of the Evening Kansan Republican noted that
“one of the most gratifying features of the work of establishing . . . a strong Y.M.C.A. has been the hearty sympathy manifested by the public generally, irrespective of religious belief, in the cause. A sincere desire to do everything possible to make the work of the organization efficient has been exhibited on all sides.”
He concluded that
“the completion of this useful public building marks another era in the story of Newton’s progress along moral, intellectual and physical lines.”