By Danny Crownover
An effort to establish and maintain a local YMCA chapter was made in 1886, but it was altogether a religious organization and not successful.
In 1906, however, leading citizens of Gadsden got together and decided to do something worthwhile for local young men. The first serious effort to organize a YMCA in Gadsden was launched in April, and a facility was opened in early May.
Named as directors were W.E. Striplin, A.E. Goodhue, J.H. Disque, Joseps Balfour, Otto Agricola, J.L. Talley, Charles P. Smith, R.V. Davidson, George S. Vann, J.W. Newman, Rev. Keg, Rev. J.R. McMullen and a Mr. McGlohon.
The membership committee was composed of Louis Caddell, Louis Greet, Prof. C.H. Webster, B.M. Stewart, J.H. Lester, Lee Whorton, G.M. Coleman, Professor W.E. Jones, Clyde Stevenson, W.H. Montgomery, A.M. Douglas, R.A. Willis, J.G. Vanzandt and Morgan McCall.
After the organization was completed, Maurice Willows, who had been secretary of Birmingham YMCA, was employed as secretary and manager.
The next step was to lease the second story of the Kyle Building located at 509 Broad Street. The first floor of which was occupied by the White Furniture Company. Enough money was raised to install a gymnasium, baths, reading room, and assembly room, which was also used by local basketball teams. There were some fine musical programs in the old assembly room, as a number of local musicians were glad to give liberally of their time and talent without charge.
The facility’s clubroom was said to be equal to those of almost any of the 60 towns of 4,000 population in the United States that had a YMCA.
Professor W.E. Striplin, who was superintendent of Gadsden City Schools, was elected as YMCA president, while J.G. Vanzandt was elected physical instructor.This chapter of the YMCA, which flourished for several years, started out with around 100 members with a goal of 200.
That goal was never reached, as the organization eventually ceased for want of financial support and because of the business depression of 1907. It could also have been that Gadsden was simply too small at that time to support YMCA on such an ambitious scale.
In the early 1960s, a proposition made to form a YMCA with assured and continuous financial support. The building located at Walnut and Second Street was built and lasted until this past year, when the City of Gadsden purchased the property.
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