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History of the YMCA in Westfield

Buzzings from BeeLines

March 28, 2012
By Marybelle Beigh - Westfield Historian (westfieldhistorian@fairpoint.net) , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Among the stack of newspaper clippings recently donated to the Westfield Historian was a photo-postcard showing the Y.M.C.A. Westfield, N.Y., that was included in the C.R. Mead collection loaned in 1975 to the Westfield Republican by Richard Mead, son of C.R. Mead, to share with the community.

The short article accompanying the photo tells that "The first YMCA was organized in Westfield, December 6, 1885 and the first building (in the photo) was constructed for the sum of $5855 ... The YMCA building closed in May of 1959 ... Sometime after ... the building was razed, and the site leveled ... for construction of the new Westfield Republican newspaper and printing business offices and shop ... A few years later ... sold the building to Bankers Trust Company." The article further noted, "The YMCA ... was a place of great activity ... offered a fine basketball court and gymnasium facility ... building ... saw heavy and continual use during its 47 years of existence."

In addition to the YMCA activities, there were a number of other functions for which the YM building was used, including the piano teaching rooms of Mrs. Cozette Cooper. I remember walking uptown from the old Westfield Academy and Central School grade school at Academy and Main Streets to the YMCA building on the south side of Main Street for my piano lessons with Mrs. Cooper on the second floor. Former Westfield Historian, the late Billie Dibble, wrote about "The Great Mock Trial" in her final Dibble's Dabbles of Dec. 20, 1990, which "was staged under the auspices of the Westfield YMCA...December 1, 1903" and "held in the Opera House" that was on the north side of Main Street, on the second floor of the buildings that most recently housed the Masonic and Eastern Stars facilities.

Article Photos

Submitted photo
This postcard from 1908 shows Westfield’s YMCA building, right, located at 52 Main Street next door to the Flygare house. The building was demolished in 1963 after closing in 1956.

In December of 2009, Jason Beers loaned me a 72-page pamphlet about the YMCA that was written for "The Carnival - March 30 - April 4, '08" containing history, program and advertisements to "Help us raise $2,000" for the completion of the work on the "new Young Men's Christian Association Building." The week of activities included a basketball game to begin the festivities, a " Grand concert by the Peak Sisters from the Old Granite State," a minstrel show, "Evening in the Gym" featuring gymnasts from the Jamestown YMCA and a "Soiree Varie" put on by The Studio Club of Buffalo to conclude The Carnival. A photo of the new YMCA building - erected 1906-1907 - was included at the beginning of the extensive 15-page history section of the pamphlet, and is identical to the photo-postcard photo of the 1975 WR article, as well as similar to the photo-postcard photo used with the Dibble's Dabbles. This same "History of the YMCA from 1885 to 1907" was published in the April 1, 1908 Westfield Republican, which also advertised the upcoming Carnival opening March 30.

"YMCA To Raze Building" on page one of the Thursday, Sept. 11, 1963, Westfield Republican declares, "The old YMCA Building at 52 Main Street, citadel of happy memories of a half generation of Westfield men and boys, is to be torn down ... The decision to demolish the four story gray stone building, once the proud boast of Westfield, was taken by the members of the Board of Directors of the Westfield YMCA at a noon meeting on Monday at which George Love, president of the board, presided." The article cited, "Increasing costs of maintaining the building and the YMCA program it housed, along with steadily decreasing public support of the annual funds drives, necessitated the closing of the old building ... Since the building was closed in 1956, deterioration of an already run down building has been such that cost of rehabilitation would be far in excess of any amount that could be raised for the building's restoration and support..."

So sadly has passed another of Westfield's historic and significant buildings, as well as the many beloved programs, into the dust of our memories, and a few old photo-postcards.

Fact Box

Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 - inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.

Beigh can be reached at

westfieldhistorian@fairpoint.net or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).

 
 
 

 

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