Our founding Fathers, Dr. Frederick W. Owen and Rev. Thomas E. Souper had a vision for the young men of Morristown..."to have the men do great things through concentrated actions instead of be lured by evil." The first meeting was held in the Baptist Church, located at the corner of Park and Speedwell on the Green, on Friday, January 2, 1874, and lasted until midnight. The Morristown YMCA was born.
The original Morristown YMCA was located in a rented second floor walkup of the Woods Estate on Park Place in the center of Morristown. The space consisted of four rooms: a library, a reading room, a meeting/prayer room, and a social room. In order to provide more services in better facilities, a building fund was established and a new location was purchased on January 14, 1881. By this time a night school had been created to teach men and boys how to read, spell and do arithmetic. Expenses were covered equally by the Y and the Morristown Board of Education. The Y was only open during evening hours and only to males.
That was soon to change. In 1883, Mrs. Jacob L. Sutplen founded the Ladies Auxiliary which consisted of the several active women who had assisted in raising over $30,000 for the new facility. This 'branch' of women was instrumental in many of the Y's functions -- both social and administrative -- yet were not allowed membership. This changed around the time of World War I when the building finally opened its doors to women and girls -- but on a part time basis. The Ladies Auxiliary organized and implmented all the classes offered to females, and they were only offered limited, exclusive time in the gymnasium.
An interesting note about the gymnasium at this time: it had been described as one of the most complete gymnasiums to be built in a town of 10,000+ inhabitants in the country. The room was well ventilated and electrically illuminated. The adjoining bathrooms offered both tubs and showers with hot and cold water. Other features included classrooms, dressing and game rooms, and a bowling alley.
By 1884, the demands of expansion caused the Board of Directors to consider yet another move. The lot at 13 South Street was purchased for $3,700, and a building was erected and opened on October 10, 1888.
The new century then inspired a new location. In 1909, the corner lot at 60 Washington Street and Western Avenue was purchased for $14,000, and the new facility was opened in December 1913. This became the third home for the YMCA.
This brings us to the fourth and current home of the now called Morris Center YMCA. Located at 79 Horsehill Road in Cedar Knolls, the building was erected and opened in November 1981. This state of the art facility consisted of an Olympic sized pool, indoor track above a full gymnasium, four racketball courts, four locker rooms (two of which with saunas) and much more. In 2001, thanks to the generosity of many throughout our service area and beyond, we completed a renovation which upgraded the entire facility and increased our functionable space from 37,000 sq. feet to 48,000 sq. feet. In addition, in 2002, the property next door at 65 Horsehill was purchased by the Y for our new Richard F. Blake Children's Center, completing our campus to a total of 13 acres. As history has shown, we continue to grow and improve upon the foundation in which we were created while everchanging with the times and meeting the needs of the community.