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318 Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, 222 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455

YMCA OF GREATER NEW YORK SEAMEN'S HOUSE BRANCH:
An Inventory of Its Records


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Historical Sketch | Contents Summary/Organization | Administrative/Access Info | Contents Details | Indexed Terms/Access Points


OVERVIEW OF THE COLLECTION

Creator: YMCA of Greater New York. Seamen's House Banch.
Title: Seamen's House YMCA records.
Date: 1921-1977 (bulk 1956-1977).
Collection Number: Y.GNY.0011
Abstract: Collected minutes, brochures, correspondence, and reports from the Seamen's House YMCA (New York, N.Y.), primarily from the period 1956-1977.
Quantity: 1 cubic foot (2 boxes)
Location: See Detailed Description section for box listing.


HISTORY OF THE SEAMEN'S HOUSE YMCA

Founded in 1921 as the Merchant Seamen’s Branch, this operation was dedicated to providing services to the sailors and crews of the U.S. merchant marine. In 1931, a large building was constructed at 550 West 20th Street, and the Seamen’s House clientele became more international. By the 1950s, Seamen’s House had weathered World War II and an influx of Coast Guard sailors, and had merged the operations of the Seamen’s House with those of the American Seamen’s Friend Society and the Seamen’s Christian Association. All the services, such as the pool, movie screenings, and books from library, were free. The YMCA charged only for rooms and meals.

By the mid-1960s, a decline in merchant shipping and other social factors combined to reduce the need for special services for seamen. At the same time, the state of New York began inquiries about the 1931 building and its adjacent laundry. The financial situation of Seamen’s House, coupled with the apparent decline in the need for its special mission, encouraged the Board of Directors to sell the property, realizing $2 million from the state in February of 1967. Seamen’s House moved to West 34th Street, adjacent to the Sloane House YMCA branch.

After the move a number of alternatives to providing services to seamen were explored, including merging with the British Merchant Navy Club, and offering non-residential services through the new Port of New York terminal building. By 1970, the possibility of moving to the McBurney branch, located at 215 West 23rd Street, was introduced. The branch began serving seamen out of a “mobile unit”, which visited ships in port. By 1972 Seamen’s House, now officially referred to as the International Seamen’s Center, had relocated its offices and some programming to the McBurney YMCA, with a increasing emphasis on mobile services and ship visits. In 1974, merger talks began in earnest, and the Seamen’s House YMCA was formally absorbed into the McBurney YMCA.

The Brooklyn Association also operated a branch for sailors that opened in 1918 in a converted church in the Red Hook section and moved next door into a new building in 1927. The new building was constructed with fund donated in 1919 by Mrs. James Harvey Williams as a memorial to her husband. Known as the Bethelship Seamen's Branch, changing demographics and shipping industry economics forced its closure and sale in 1948. A vestige of the mission to provide services to the men and boys of the sea remains in the Prospect Park branch’s Seafarer’s Safe House, a twelve-unit affordable residential program in Brooklyn for retired sailors.

(Information taken from The YMCA at 150: A History of the YMCA of Greater New York, 1852-2002 by Pamela Bayless, 2002; and from An Event on Mercer Street, by Terry Donoghue, 1951; and from the YMCA Seamen's House records.)



SCOPE AND CONTENTS OF THE COLLECTION

The Seamen's House YMCA collection consists of Board of Managers minutes from the period 1956-1977, scattered material on the Seamen's House branch’s financial situation from 1925 to 1974, and reports and statistics on a wide range of issues from 1922-1974. The collection also includes a substantial amount of analysis and correspondence on the relocation and merger with the McBurney branch. The brochures cover the period 1921-1968, and there are correspondence and programs on building dedications and anniversaries from 1931 to 1950. Miscellaneous correspondence includes materials from the files of Wilbur H. Peck, executive director during the years surrounding the move to McBurney.





ORGANIZATION/ARRANGEMENT OF THE RECORDS

These documents are organized into the following sections:
Board of Managers.
Correspondence.
Reports.
Brochures.
Buildings.
Finances.


ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Use of Materials:
This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.
Preferred Citation:
[Indicate the cited item and/or series here]. Seamen's House Branch YMCA Records. YMCA of Greater New York. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. University of Minnesota.
See the Chicago Manual of Style for additional examples.
Processing Information:
Processed by: Louise Merriam, August, 2006.
Catalog Record ID number: 4901076


DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE COLLECTION

The following section contains a detailed list of the materials in the collection. To request materials, please note the corresponding box number.

Board of Managers

Box 248 Minutes, 1956, 1961, 1966-1977. 7 folders.


Brochures

Box 247 Brochures, 1921, 1926, 1937-38, 1967-68.


Buildings

Box 247 Building dedications, 1931, 1941, 1945, 1950.
Laundry, 1961.


Correspondence

Box 247 Mergers with American Seamen's Friend Society and Seamen's Christian Association, 1921, 1929, 1938, 1957-1958.
Relationship with Coast Guard, 1942.
Box 248 Wilbur H. Peck miscellaneous correspondence, 1971-1973.


Finances

Box 247 Budget summaries, 1925, 1953, 1966.
Donors and memorial rosters, 1936 1936.
Box 247 Staffing, circa 1942.
Box 247 Fund report, 1972.
Box 248 Correspondence regarding budgets and finances, 1970-1974.


Reports

Box 247 Departmental reports, 1935.
Box 247 Clippings, 1922, 1930, 1939.
Box 247248 Athletic Cup Soccer League, 1971. [Box 248]
Relocation to McBurney, 1970-1971.
Monthly statistics, 1971-1974.
Analysis of services for international seamen, circa 1970.



INDEX TERMS

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Topics:
Low-income housing -- New York (State) -- New York
Merchant marine -- United States.
Young Men's Christian associations -- New York (State) -- New York.
Young Men's Christian associations -- Buildings.
Persons:
Peck, Wilbur H.
Places:
Manhattan (New York, N.Y.).
Organizations:
YMCA of Greater New New York. Seamen's House Branch.
American Seamen’s Friend Society.
Seamen’s Christian Association.
YMCA of Greater New York. McBurney Branch.
Types of Documents:
Brochures