The original Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was founded in London, United Kingdom, in 1844, and by 1855 it had become a world-wide organization. The Whatcom Family YMCA came into existence in 1890, with Mr. R. B. Heron as chairman and first president. Then known as the Young Men’s Christian Association of New Whatcom, it was created in response to a perceived need for wholesome recreational opportunities for young men in the community.
Organizing committee members of the YMCA of New Whatcom belonged to various churches in Whatcom and New Whatcom. The object of the association was “the improvement of the spiritual, mental, social, and physical condition of young men" (Source: Article 1, section 2 of the Constitution and By-Laws of the New Whatcom, Washington, YMCA, p. 312, Minutes of Young Men’s League and YMCA Board of Directors, 1890 June 29 – 1898 December 9). The YMCA of New Whatcom maintained a library and gymnasium, and provided assistance to young men in finding employment and respectable boarding places. However, faced with lean times between the community and the organization’s indebtedness, the Board of Directors elected to close rooms in 1898.
With renewed interest and support from the community, the organization was reestablished as the Young Men’s Christian Association of Whatcom in July, 1903, under the guidance of Mr. C. W. Wilcox of the state organization. The YMCA of Whatcom constructed a three-story brick and stone building at 311 East Holly Street. This new facility opened in June 1906, complete with swimming pool, gymnasium, dormitories, and social rooms.
During World War II, the YMCA of Whatcom engaged actively in the war effort. It functioned as a liaison between the United Service Organizations (USOs) and service men in the Bellingham area, facilitating socials, parties, church attendance, and other activities, as well as allowing free use of the YMCA building to enlisted men. The YMCA of Whatcom also provided first aid classes for civilians registered for civilian defense.
In November 1942, owing to deterioration of the old facilities under heavy use, the YMCA of Whatcom took possession of the building in which it currently resides, located at 1256 North State Street. The new building, formerly the Henry Hotel, was initially used for residential and club activities. It was later developed into a full service YMCA, offering a swimming pool, handball courts, and gymnasium. The old building was sold in 1944.
In 1945, the YMCA of Whatcom changed its name to the YMCA of Bellingham. The organization broadened its mission to include family activities in the 1950s. The Family Swim program began in 1953, and girls were first invited to participate through the Learn-to-Swim program in 1955. Women and girls became eligible for full membership in September, 1958.
The organization, currently called the Whatcom Family YMCA, continues to operate as an important part of the community by providing a central location for physical recreation, fellowship, and learning for children and adults.
The Whatcom Family YMCA records date from the organization’s establishment in 1890 until 1970, with a gap dating from 1899 to 1903 that reflects the organization’s temporary inactivity. The records were primarily created by the local organization with the exception of those generated by the YMCA national office and the Bellingham Community Chest, a local fundraising organization. The collection comprises administrative records, financial records, member organization records, scrapbooks, and a small number of photographs.
Administrative records span the dates 1890-1970, and document the management of the Whatcom Family YMCA by the board of directors. The records include constitutions, by-laws, board minutes, board members lists, committee activities, correspondence, and documents concerning the management and development of property owned by the organization. The General Secretary’s report to the Board from 1903 to 1907 is of interest for its detailed account of the construction of the YMCA building which was completed in 1906.
Financial records date from 1933-1967, and document transactions, decisions, budgets, and reports, monthly income and expense statements and annual audit reports.
Member organization records contain materials from the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the YMCA which date from 1892 to 1897, and include the club’s constitution, a roster of members and board of directors, and meeting minutes. Member organization records also include meeting minutes, correspondence, and attendance records of the Y’s Men’s Club that date from 1929 to 1932.
Scrapbooks span the dates 1936-1944, and include newspaper clippings documenting YMCA social activities. Some scrapbooks cover specific events such as the membership campaign, the Community Chest fundraising campaign of 1940, and the Centennial celebration campaign of 1944.
A small number of photographs, mostly without identifying information, are included, and date from approximately 1907-1910.
Restrictions on Access :
The collection is open to the public.Preferred Citation :
Whatcom Family YMCA records, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Heritage Resources, Western Washington University, Bellingham WA 98225-9123.
The Whatcom Family YMCA records are organized according to the following series arrangement:
Custodial History :
The records were generated by the Whatcom Family YMCA, with the exception of a small number of records created by the YMCA national office and the Bellingham Community Chest.Acquisition Information :
The Whatcom Family YMCA records were donated in 1979.Processing Note :
Duplicates and non-archival materials were removed from the collection.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.