YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, Metropolitan Offices records, 1877-2012
Using These Materials
- The record group is open to research.
- YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. Metropolitan Offices.
- Branch of the YMCA; Annual reports, clippings, correspondence, financial records, minutes of meetings, photographs, press releases, published materials, rosters, and scrapbooks; also includes collected branch records for the Railroad branch, 1877-1890, and the Downtown branch, 1890-1909; and publication, Detroit Young Men, 1911-1922.
11 linear feet (in 13 boxes)
21 oversize volumes
1 oversize folder
- Call Number:
- 90124 Bk 2
- Finding aid created by Bentley Historical Library staff
- Scope and Content:
The records of the Metropolitan Offices of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit consist of annual reports, correspondence, financial materials, minutes (Secretary's records), photographs, published brochures and pamphlets, and scrapbooks. The materials document, somewhat unevenly, the efforts of the YMCA to tend to the spiritual, physical, and social needs of the young men in Detroit. The strengths of this record group are in its minutes (Secretary's records) and photographs, each of which provides detailed and telling insight into the development of Detroit and the YMCA from the nineteenth century to 2006. The scrapbooks created by the YMCA, 1936-1973, are also of interest in that they accurately reflect all newspaper coverage of YMCA events and activities for this decade.
The records have been arranged in four series: Administration, Secretary's Records, Visual Materials, and Scrapbooks.
- Biographical / Historical:
The Metropolitan Offices of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit were established in 1921 to oversee the operations of the various YMCA branches in Detroit and to serve as liaison between these branches and the state and national offices of the YMCA. Until the formal establishment of these offices these tasks were executed by the officers of the downtown branch of the Detroit YMCA. The Detroit YMCA traces its origins to efforts made in 1852 and 1858 to organize those interested in improving "the spiritual and mental condition of young men." Neither of these efforts were sustained. After the Civil War, in the midst of a national resurgence of the YMCA, the Detroit YMCA was re-established in 1867 with a mission expanded to include physical and social elements of man's existence. This version of the Detroit YMCA was able to sustain and expand its efforts in the community by building new facilities, increasing membership, raising its profile locally, and expanding its programs.
With a membership of nearly one thousand, and no access to a suitable building, the Detroit YMCA underwrote the building of the city's first YMCA building in 1887. This structure at Griswold and Grand River contained reading rooms, a library, a plunge, and a gymnasium. It adequately served the needs of local members for nearly twenty years. At the same time, the needs of railroad workers passing through Detroit were met at the "Railroad Y" on the south side of town. As Detroit's population grew, the demand for and use of the YMCA facilities outstripped the existing plant. In May 1906, with membership breaching three thousand, the Detroit YMCA raised over $500,000 to erect a new building. In 1909, the new Downtown YMCA opened at the corner of Witherell and Adams. This building contained reading rooms, a library, two gymnasiums (one for men and one for boys), a swimming pool, five floors of residence rooms, handball courts, and administrative office space.
From 1910 to 1930 the population of Detroit trebled. The growth in YMCA membership more than matched the city's rapid population growth, moving from just under four thousand in 1910 to fourteen thousand in 1930. It was immediately clear that the Downtown YMCA building would be unable to provide convenient access to its facilities to all interested men. The answer lay in the opening of six neighborhood branches of the YMCA between 1916 and 1924: Highland Park, Western, Fisher, St. Antoine, Mack Avenue, and Hannan. The formation of these branches precipitated the formal creation of the Metropolitan Offices of the Detroit YMCA to handle business which had formerly been dealt with by the downtown branch officers. A five million dollar fund raising drive was held in May 1925 in order to finance the building of facilities for each of the branches. The success of this drive was assured by the generosity of several prominent Detroit families, among them the Fords, Dodges, Kresges, Fishers, and Hannans, who readily underwrote efforts to expand YMCA influence.
The 1930s were grim and difficult times for both the city of Detroit and the YMCA. The shattered local economy could not sustain the growth of the YMCA generated by the boom times of the 1920s. Retrenchment led to the closing of the Hamtramck branch which had opened in 1928 and forced the curtailing of staff and operations in all branches. It was not until World War II that the Detroit YMCA recovered the momentum for growth which it enjoyed in the 1920s. This time the nexus of development was suburban Detroit as the YMCA continued to build in regions of population growth. The Wyandotte, Birmingham, Royal Oak, Dearborn, and Northwest YMCA buildings were all completed between 1944 and 1950. Membership in metropolitan YMCAs topped thirty thousand by 1950; the future looked rosy. Unfortunately for the St. Antoine branch, the growth and prosperity of the suburban branches did not guarantee the continued existence of the inner city branch reserved for Blacks. Given the changing social climate regarding segregated facilities, the reshaping of inner cities by urban renewal and highways, and the economic difficulties of St. Antoine, the Metropolitan Detroit YMCA opted to close this branch in 1960. Wayne-Westland branch was established in the early 1960s, experienced two building campaigns but closed in 2003.
The YMCA is more than the sum of expanding membership and new buildings; its commitment to improving the mental, spiritual, social, and physical aspects of men is manifested through its programs. While many of these programs changed over time, the spiritual development of members remained a central feature at the core of the religious department of the YMCA. The mental condition of young men was tended to through lectures during the nineteenth century and through formal programs and institutions, especially the Detroit Institute of Technology, in the twentieth century. The social development of boys and young men was attended to by departments within the YMCA created to assure the inculcation of Christian ideals at an early age. Summer camps at Camp Nissokone (on Van Etten Lake near Oscoda) and Camp Ohiyesa (on Fish Lake near Clyde) were founded in the 1910s to further YMCA ideals in the great outdoors. The physical development was encouraged not only through the well appointed buildings, but through programs of physical education and the formation of leagues. In practice the spiritual, mental, social, and physical aspects of man were closely linked so that programs developed by the YMCA affected all four attributes.
- Acquisition Information:
- The record group was donated in December 1989 by the Metropolitan Offices of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit (Donor no. 7754 ) through Robert Davis, president of the YMCA's Metropolitan Offices. Periodic additions have been received.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
African Americans -- Michigan -- Detroit.
Young Men's Christian Associations.
Youth -- Religious life.
African Americans -- Michigan.
Buildings -- Michigan.
Camps -- Michigan.
Maltese Americans -- Michigan.
World War, 1914-1918.
Young Men's Christian Associations.
Youth -- Michigan.
YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit.
YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. Metropolitan Offices.
Auburn Hills (Mich.) -- Buildings.
Birmingham (Mich.) -- Buildings.
Dearborn (Mich.) -- Buildings.
Detroit (Mich.) -- Buildings.
Eastpointe (Mich.) -- Buildings.
Highland Park (Mich.) -- Buildings.
Royal Oak (Mich.) -- Buildings.
Using These Materials
The record group is open to research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
[item], folder, box, YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, Metropolitan Offices records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan