Marion YMCA

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The modern YMCA on 3rd St. Date UnknownThe Marion Y, located at 418 West Third Street, has been serving the Grant County Community for 110 years (Alexander Interview). The Grant County Y is a proud carrier of the national YMCA mission statement, “We build strong kids, strong families, strong communities.” And carries their own mission, “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy Spirit, mind, and body for all” (Alexander screen 1). But how does the Grant County YMCA fulfill these missions? With a two-story building and 110 years of hard work (Alexander Interview).


The old YMCA Building at 5th and Boots St., date unknown
The first mentioning of the current Grant County YMCA building came from A.E. Hatley and John G. Sutter of Marion, Indiana, in the early 1940s (“Present Builidng Envisioned!”). Hatley was describing other YMCA buildings he had visited as the two men rode horses one afternoon. Sutter, who was a very strong supporter of the movement, stated that he and many others would donate money to such an enterprise (“Present Building Envisioned!”). Inspired, the two men devised a building plan that would change the Grant County community greatly.

A previous YMCA building had existed in Marion on the corner of Fifth and Boots Streets in the 1800s (“Memorial To Their Fighting Men”). However, the building was small and had deteriorated beyond use. Hatley and Sutter thought a new, larger building would better suit the communities’ needs. They agreed that Marion was in need of a large community and civic center and expanded the proposed Y into a memorial honoring the town’s veterans of World War I (“Memorial To Their Fighting Men”). They developed their plan and presented it to a board of twenty five civic leaders, chaired by L. Hewitt Carpenter and including such men as Milton Maidenberg and W.O. Pickering, future presidents of the YMCA (“Memorial To Their Fighting Men”). The board enthusiastically agreed with Hatley and Sutter’s proposal and began work almost immediately.


The first meeting was held on a concrete floor slab at the chosen location of Third and Race Streets (“The YMCA has come a long way since 1891!”). The 132x182 foot section was chosen for its proximity to Martin Boots Junior High School and Horace Mann Grade School, accessibility to traffic from North, South, and West Marion, and the bus line, and its proximity to the Courthouse square and downtown Marion (“Questionnaire” 2). The $1,250,000 proposal went into full swing and the money-raising began. Several companies were eager to offer their services and financial support to the project, such as Central Indiana Gas Co. and Moorehead Electric Company (“Excerpt From Minutes of Meeting of Board of Directors March 4, 1946). At a board meeting held on January 13th, 1951, the final building plans were made. President Francis Davis and board decided to hire the Hagerman Construction Co. for general construction, the Freyn Brothers for plumbing, heating, and ventilation, and the Moorehead Electric Company for all electrical installations (qtd. “Excerpt From Meeting of The Board of Directors February 13, 1950”). The architects of A.M. Strauss and Co. designed the floor plans and building structure as had previously been decided (qtd. “Excerpt From Meeting of The Board of Directors March 18, 1946”). The people of Marion enthusiastically awaited the arrival of the new Y.

Breaking Ground

$5,000 For YMCA building. "With the presentation of the check to the Y Building Fund which took place in the ceremony above, RCA has now supported this community project with $30,000 in contributions." Accepting the check is Dale Schaumleffel, President of the Y building, also pictured is P. F. Alexander, Y Secretary, C. W. Breunig, Personnel Manager & Leonard Gillon RCA Plant Manager. From RCA Family Newspaper Sept. 1956
On January 31st, 1951, the first ceremonial shovelful of soil was turned (“Present Building Envisioned!”). It was 20 degrees below zero, and yet hundreds of Marionites turned up for the ceremony (“Present Building Envisioned!”). The construction of the building lasted for several months, yet the finished building was agreeably consistent with the efforts of the many men and women responsible for its completion. The legacy of the Y was now instituted in the Grant County Community, and has sustained for the past 110 years.

Growth and Expansion

Swimming classes at the Y, June 21, 1958
The Marion Y, like the American Y, has grown over time. This local organization offers membership to any person of any age at annual prices ranging from 80 dollars to 435 dollars (Grant County Family YMCA Brochure Fall 2000 Winter 2001). Yet many of the Y’s services are open to nonmembers at individual prices. For example, the pool is open to all ages at certain times for two dollars a person (Alexander Interview). The Grant County Family YMCA offers many sports for all ages, including basketball, soccer, football, gymnastics, and dance (Grant County Family YMCA Brochure Fall 2000 Winter 2001). Swim lessons, land and water aerobics, game rooms, and family activities are also available (“Grant County Family YMCA Brochure Fall 2000 Winter 2001”). After school programs in which children engage in fun recreational activities and educational tutoring are offered as well (“Grant County Family YMCA Brochure Fall 2000 Winter 2001”).

The Marion Y Today

The new Technogym provides state-of-the-art exercise equipment with personalized software to record an individuals progress (“Grant County Family YMCA Brochure Fall 2000 Winter 2001”). This addition to the Grant County Y has proved to be very beneficial since its installation in 1999 (“Grant County Family YMCA Brochure Fall 2000 Winter 2001”). Apart from the Technogym, the building consists of a swimming pool, cardio-weight rooms, gymnasium, racquetball courts, the Marion room, a children’s play room, cardiovascular room, Nautilus room, Free Weight Area, and Game room (“Grant County Family YMCA Brochure Fall 2000 Winter 2001”). The purpose of these facilities, according to Curt Alexander who is the Marketing Director of the Grant County Y, is to better serve the Grant County community. He states that "'Putting Christian principles into practice’ is the fundamental part of all of our activities”.

History of YMCA America

The YMCA, or Young Men’s Christian Association, has been a part of American history for 150 years (Henderson and Gladish 1). The first YMCA was founded in Boston by Thomas Valentine Sullivan on December 29, 1851 (Hopkins 4). Sullivan had heard stories of the YMCAs in England, and wanted to bring the institution’s services to the USA (Hopkins 4). He quickly formed a committee consisting of twenty-five members and transformed the Old South Church of Boston into the first American YMCA (Hopkins 5).

A Building in Baltimore

The first YMCA building was built in Baltimore in 1859 (YMCA 17). This infant organization offered prayer meetings, libraries, reading rooms, Bible classes, social events for members, and even lodging (YMCA 17). Membership was usually limited to males between the ages of sixteen and forty (YMCA 17). But the YMCA was just getting started. Soon Ys were popping up all over America, from New York to Oregon (Henderson and Gladish 11). They hired such esteemed employees as John Wanamaker and Walt Whitman (Hinding 54,55). Wanamaker was the first official YMCA employee in 1857 and Whitman served on a volunteer council in 1861 (Hinding 54,55).

Populations Served

The Y extended its services to African Americans in 1853, with the help of Rev. Anthony Bowing (Hopkins 38). The first Chinese American YMCA opened in San Francisco in 1870 (Henderson and Gladish 7). The Y was slowly becoming the national symbol it is today. In the year 2000, one out of every three Americans has been a member to a YMCA at some point in their life and three out of four have heard of an Y or its services (Henderson and Gladish 1). This is partially due to the wide range of services the Y offers. Although it varies between counties, each individual Y offers many social, recreational, and educational activities (Hinding 22). A primary focus of YMCAs has been to provide a safe and fun place for latchkey children where they could receive education and moral training (Hopkins 42). To do this, many sports and tutoring programs were offered. In 1893, seven hundred students were enrolled in vocational and liberal arts classes at the Boston YMCA (Henderson and Gladish 9). In fact, many activities owe their creation to the YMCA itself.

YMCA Innovations

James Naismith, a college instructor at Springfield College and part-time employee at the Springfield Y, is credited with the invention of basketball (YMCA 39). The YMCA director, Dr. Luther H. Gulick, realized the need for an indoor, winter sport and asked Naismith to invent such a sport (YMCA 38). The first game was played on January 20, 1892, with peach baskets and only thirteen rules (Henderson and Gladish 9). The game caught on rapidly and was extended to women in 1893 (Henderson and Gladish 9).

Y director Dr. Gulick had revolutionized YMCA sports in many other ways as well. He was the creator of the national Y symbol; a red, inverted triangle, in 1891 (Henderson and Gladish 8). According to Gulick, each equal side of the triangle stood for “man’s essential unity, body, mind, and spirit.” (Henderson and Gladish 8) He chose red because of its representation of simplicity and strength and the color’s vibrancy (Henderson and Gladish 8). Naismith had studied under Dr. Gulick at Springfield College, as did William Morgan, a future Y employee who is credited with the invention of volleyball (Henderson and Gladish 8). Volleyball was created in conditions much like those of basketball.

The Ys of America have given us many other recreational activities as well. Water polo was invented soon after basketball (Henderson and Gladish 9). The sport branched off of water basketball and was first recognized in 1891 (Henderson and Gladish 9). The first official swim lessons were given by George Corsan at the Detroit YMCA in 1907 (YMCA 66). Boy Scouts of America was founded February 8, 1910, by Edgar Robinson of the YMCA (YMCA 87). Even Father’s Day started at the Spokane YMCA by Sonora Louise Smart on June 6, 1910 (Henderson and Gladish 12,13). With these creations and others, it is easy to see why the YMCA has been such an important part of the American people the past 150 years. And yet the Y of today believes that the next 150 years will be even more successful. The Grant County YMCA of Marion, IN, emulates the success and significance of the American YMCA tradition.


The Grant County YMCA has been a substantial part of Marion’s history, just as the YMCA has been to America. Today, there are over 2,400 YMCA’s in America and are seen as “the oldest and largest social institution in the United States” (Henderson and Gladish 25). These Ys serve over 17.5 million members, half of whom are female and half of whom are over the age of eighteen (Henderson and Gladish 25). With an outstanding history of accomplishment, both locally and nationally, the YMCA posses a promising future. Perhaps that is why Professor Andrea Hinding of the University of Minnesota states, that ‘The YMCA has probably touched more lives in America than any other volunteer or social institution.” (Hinding 3).

Works Cited

  • Alexander, Curt. Personal interview. 11 January 2001.
  • Alexander, Curt. Web Page. YMCA 26 December 2001.
  • Clevinger, John M., Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Grant County, IN. 18 March 1946, YMCA club room. Anderson, IN.
  • Clevinger, John M., Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Grant County. IN. 13 January 1951, YMCA social room. Anderson, IN.
  • Grant County Family YMCA Brochure Fall 2000 Winter 2001. YMCA, 2000.
  • Henderson, Thomas and Gladish, Kenneth L. YMCA in America 185 1-2001 A History of Accomplishment Over 150 Years. Chicago: YMCA of the USA, 2000.
  • Hinding, Andrea. Proud Heritage. Chicago: YMCA of the USA, 2000.
  • Hopkins, Howard C. History of the YMCA in North America. Chicago: YMCA of the USA, 1984.
  • “Memorial to Their Fighting Men.” Indianapolis Star Magazine. 5 Mar. 1978, Indiana Collection: A9+.
  • “Present Building Envisioned!” Y’s Outlook. Spring 1978 ed.:A1+.
  • “Proposed New YMCA - Community Memorial Building in Marion Questions and Answers”. Questionnaire. 22 January 1951, sec 1: 1+.
  • “The YMCA has come a long way since 1981!”. Y’s Outlook. Spring 1978 ed.:A1+.
  • “YMCA of the USA”. Firsts and Foremosts. Chicago: YMCA of the USA, 1984.


This article was written by Erin Harris and submitted on January 16, 2001 to Mr. Lakes' and Mr. Munn's classes at Marion High School.