Library Receives Gift of the Archives of the Young Men's Christian Association of Kitchener-Waterloo

Wednesday, June 1, 1994

Library Newsletter, Vol. 25, No. 3, June 1994

Library Receives Gift of the Archives of the Young Men's Christian Association of Kitchener-Waterloo

YMCA building under construction, 1921

Shown here is one of the series of photos documenting the building of the YMCA's former headquarters. Taken on July 16, 1921, this photo shows the incorporation of the existing house on the lot into the building. (Denton photo)

The Library of the University of Waterloo is pleased to announce that the Doris Lewis Rare Book Room has received as a gift the papers of the Kitchener-Waterloo branch of the Young Men's Christian Association.

These papers document the history of the local association which was founded in Berlin/Kitchener in 1895 by a group described in Dr. J. F. Honsberger's informal history some years later as "spiritually minded-Christians, eager to promote the spiritual welfare of young men and boys of the City." Active until 1906 when financial difficulties and limited facilities made it necessary to cease local operations, the Association was reconstituted in 1919 when a large fund-raising campaign resulted in the building of the structure at the corner of Queen and Weber streets in Kitchener. This building remained the headquarters until the Association moved to its present locations on Carwood Avenue in Kitchener and Lincoln Road in Waterloo.

Among the earliest documents in the archives are the handwritten Minutes of the first Board of Directors (1895-1906), an invitation to the building opening in 1895, and the original Treasurer's book documenting the Association's early financial transactions. Also included are:

  • minutes of several clubs, such as the Spokes Club, the Y's Men's Club from the 1930s, and Pan Politae
  • several pieces of realia - the silver trowel used by local officials in the 1921 cornerstone laying, the famous gavel used by the Beta Club which was sent around the world in 1935 to every country in which the YMCA operated
  • many buttons, pins, and memorabilia of events, celebrations and meetings

Most interesting among the collection of photographs are the series of 24 photographs taken by a local photographer at regular intervals from May 1921 until April 1922. This series documents the construction of the building at Queen and Weber streets and most fascinating are the views showing the incorporation of the Association's headquarters at the time - the house existing on the lot - into the new building. Also included in the photographs are dozens of albums documenting children's activities.

Completed YMCA building, 1922

The completed YMCA headquarters, early in 1922.

Other local history collections in the Doris Lewis Rare Book Room complement this new accession. Included here are :

  • the papers of W. H. Breithaupt, which contain the 1895 drawings for the renovation of the YM's first home in Berlin/Kitchener
  • the papers of E. P. Clement, who first suggested that a YM be formed in Berlin/Kitchener as an outgrowth of his Men's Bible Class at Trinity Methodist Church
  • the diaries of L. J. Breithaupt, which contain descriptions of the earliest years of activity and document Breithaupt's role as the YM's first major donor
  • materials relating to one of the YM's most influential members, A. R. Kaufman

The most important of the complementary collections are the papers of the Young Women's Christian Association, which were donated to the Library in 1990. The Boards of the local "YW" and"YM" saw many husband and wife teams and an exploration of the roles of these two early social service and support groups is important to understand trends in this period of regional development.

In addition to the gift of the archives, the YMCA has made a cash contribution to assist the Library in the processing and preservation costs of the collection. Library staff are presently working with members of the YMCA's Centenary Committee in planning programs and events celebrating the YM's 100th anniversary in 1995. Included in these plans will be a series of displays and exhibitions using these papers to celebrate the history of the Kitchener-Waterloo branch of the YMCA.

For additional details contact Special Collections & Archives.

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