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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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The home of the Y.M.C.A. with the former Stout home adjacent.

YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION (Y.M.C.A.). The formation of the Dubuque chapter of Y.M.C.A. is in some doubt. According to a history of the organization, it was organized at a meeting held in the lecture room of the First Congregational Church of Dubuque (later FIRST CONGREGATIONAL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST on September 11, 1866. (1) The Dubuque City Directory of 1856, however, states that the organization was incorporated on June 23, 1856 with the following officers: (2)

            William Mills
       Vice Presidents
            P.L. Hatch, D. N. COOLEY,  Francis J. HERRON, 
            Benjamin Billings RICHARDS, William VANDEVER 
            Louis BOISOT
            U. R. Walton
       Recording Secretary
            Francis J. Herron
       Corresponding Secretary
            Jerome Allen
            Austin ADAMS, Thomas J. Jones, C. H. Hetherington, R. M. Walmsley, 
            G. F. Bissell, William Redman, M. H. Beach, H. A. Littleton, A. H. 
            Dillon, S. C. Kearsley, A. E. Harmon, and David Decker
       Reading Room
            No.6 Redman's Block

This makes the Dubuque chapter one of the first west of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. The first YMCA was founded in London, England in 1833 and the first in America was established in Boston in 1855. (3)

A constitution and bylaws were written soon after the first meeting and officers were elected. N. C. Ryder was elected president of the board of directors. Vice-presidents were D. K. Cornwall and William C. CHAMBERLAIN.

The first Y.M.C.A. was opened in November 1866, in rooms over the E. H. Moore Drug Store at 130 Main Street. (4) The "Y" was later relocated to 679 Main Street. (5) The facilities included a boxing room and another room for social activities, Gospel meetings, and Bible study. In 1876 the Y.M.C.A. offered room for meetings of the Dubuque Lyceum. On such questions as "Is the miser more injurious to society than the spendthrift?, two people spoke for the affirmative and two for the negative. Young men were encouraged to attend and to learn parliamentary procedure, "which is essentially necessary, as no man can tell when he may be asked to hold office." (6) In the same year, the organization published the "Gospel Trumpet" which was distributed at local churches. (7)

Interest in the organization appears to have declined. On June 28, 1892 a Y. M. C. A. "was organized" at a meeting held at the Congregational Church. A copy of the constitution and bylaws of the Clinton chapter was read and, with few changes, adopted. There were to be two classes of members. The "active" members had to be in good standing with the orthodox Christian churches of Dubuque. Those who did not agree with the doctrines of the orthodox Christian churches could be honorary members. These members could not hold office or vote, but could participate in discussions. The members of the board of directors contained no more than two members each from the First Congregational, Second Presbyterian or Main Street Methodist churches. The other nine members came from the other churches with no more than five from any sect. (8) There was to be no sectarian discussion, essay or speech within the rooms of the organization. Boys between the ages of ten and fifteen were admitted to membership for $2.50 annually. All facilities were open to them on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday forenoons. Classes in the gymnasium were offered from !0:00-11:00 a.m. Saturdays and 5:00-6:00 Tuesdays. (9) Gospel meetings were held with local speakers. (10)

The religious element of the organization was met with some skepticism. Rev. H. E. Mott speaking on the subject "The Pastor and the Association" said the two should have nothing in common. The association, he explained, should be non-sectarian. Ministers should be satisfied if the organization was operated at business principles. "It was the mission of the Y. M. C. A. to throw a good atmosphere around the young man and to lure them by its attractions from their usual resorts." (11)

Speaking for the business community's interest in the organization was John Taylor ADAMS. He claimed that businesses were not interested in physical, mental or moral development but what he called "character." He pointed out that the Union Pacific spent $40,000 annually supporting associations along its line because they improved employees and led them to give better "and more faithful service." (12)

In November 1892 an announcement was made that the organization would be located at the northwest corner of 9th and Locust on the first floor of the ODD FELLOWS TEMPLE. The Y. M. C. A. rooms including a gymnasium, baths, parlor and reading rooms were opened for public inspection on August 29, 1892. (13) The library of an estimated 14,000 volumes was moved into the building in December, 1893. (14)

Cornerstone laying for the new Y.M.C.A. Loemker, Herman J., 1868-1937, “[Cornerstone laying at the new Y. M. C. A. building, Dubuque, Iowa],” Loras College Digital Collections, accessed December 27, 2015, https://digitalcollections.loras.edu/items/show/337.

Despite the location in the Odd Fellows Hall, the organization's interest in having its own building remained. On November 11, 1893 it was announced that the organization had paid $8,500 for a lot and house near the corner of 9th and Iowa. Among the contributions was a deed to half of a double store on Clay in the will of Leo Ziepprecht upon the death of his grandmother. (15)

One of the greatest donations ever received by the organization came on March 30, 1894, when Henry L. STOUT gave a check drawn on the SECOND NATIONAL BANK to C. H. Fiegenbaum representing the Y.M.C.A. for his home, valued at $20,000, at the corner of Ninth and Iowa STREETS. Stout had been interested in the work of the Y.M.C.A. by Fred B. SMITH who had served as the local head of the organization since 1892. Stout's home was used as the organization's headquarters. There was one stipulation to the gift. This was that the organization raise $7,000 with which to build a gymnasium. (16) In the first day of asking for donations, a committee received $3,000. (17) By April 1, 1894 the money had been collected. Stout's check for $1.00 to legalize the "sale" of his property to the Y.M.C.A. was to be framed and hung the association's offices. (18)

Construction of the Stout Auditorium began in June 1894. When finished the 51' by 81' building contained a 51' by 67' gymnasium that began in the basement and took up the first floor. The remainder of the basement was used for a locker room. The part of the first floor, equal in size to the locker room below was planned for toilets; bath rooms including nine baths, two tubs and seven showers; closets and the director's office. A running track was planned around the gymnasium which was to be supplied with various types of training equipment. The entire second floor was devoted to an auditorium with a seating capacity of 931. For light and ventilation, the building had twenty-three large windows on the southern side and and fifteen more on both the alley and northern side. Remodeling on the Stout home was expected to cost $10,000. This would include both gas and electric lighting fixtures, hardwood floors on the first level, and carpeting on the second. The first floor would include a parlor, reading rooms, and game rooms. The second floor was devoted entirely for educational classes. (19)

On October 15, 1894 the old quarters of the Y. M. C. A. at 520 Main were crowded as a farewell reunion was held prior to the acceptance of the new Stout Auditorium. In reviewing the past year, it was announced that 736,000 visits had been made to the various departments, gymnasium classes that been attended by 8,400 young men and 116 gospel meetings had been held. Work on the new building was continuing, but enough had been finished to move into the new center. (20)

In March 1895 Mrs. Charles Hancock organized a women's calisthenics class. She was elected president of the group and twenty-rive other local ladies joined her. The class was to be held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. (21)

Not all activities occurred at the building. In 1902 the organization purchased the "Orton cottage" at AINSWORTH SPRINGS as a lodge for those attending Y.M.C.A.-sponsored activities. The physical education director also announced his intention of reviving the game of lawn tennis in the city. To bring this about, he had arranged for a tennis court on the ground north of the gymnasium. He planned to organize several classes for men and women. (22)

In 1903 the "Pony Club," young members, left the "Y" building at 9:30 a.m. and rode ponies supplied for the occasion up Locust Street to "Altman's Farm." They played baseball among other activities and returned to the "Y" at 5:00 p.m. A second day was planned with a ride to the county POOR FARM. Rides are planned for each week of the summer sessions. (23) On July 23, 1904 a swimming school was established by the Y. M. C. A. at the base of Third Street on the west bank of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. A space containing about 2,000 square feet was enclosed with wire netting to prevent the swimmers from drifting into the current. A large "float" was anchored at the northeast corner of the enclosure. Built like a houseboat, the float provided dressing room and diving boards on two sides. Life lines and rescue boats were available. Special hours were assigned for the instruction of boys of different ages and for men. (24)

Plans for Pioneer Clubs were announced in 1924 by members of the boys' work department. A leader's council would have full control of organizing outside clubs in churches and neighborhoods. Weekly programs would be planned. (25) As many as 600 jobless youth were identified in a survey of local schools, churches and the relief office in 1934. In 1935 a program, called the Leisure Time Club, was included in the recreational project under the WPA. On a regular schedule maintained by the YMCA, a young man could participate in swimming, life saving, individual workouts, ping-pong, card games, chess or the use of a reading room. During the summer outdoor activities were included including baseball and softball leagues. Many young men were directed to permanent employment with others finding part-time work. (26) The local YMCA hosted clubs from around Iowa in the State YMCA Basketball Meet in 1937 (27), 1937 (28), and 1948 (29). Teen Age Socials in the 1940s included swimming, games in the lobby and game rooms, and dancing in the gym. (30)

In 2010 the building constructed in 1894 had been converted into the Henry Stout Senior Apartments.

In 1916 the Stout home was demolished and replaced by a five-story building costing $175,000. This structure housed administrative offices, two meeting rooms, sixty-two residence rooms, lockers, club room, handball court, swimming pool, weightlifting room, and health center which in 1951 was advertised as providing baths. This building was later named the IOWA INN.

The YMCA opened a camp in 1951 at the former site of UNION PARK. Originally owned in cooperation with the BOY SCOUTS, the site in 2020 was owned by the "Y." (31)

In 1958 the "Junior Teen Haven" was organized to provide junior high students a recreational outlet. Attended weekly by an estimated four hundred students, the program offered dancing as the main attraction with record music broadcast over the public address system. Records were ranked by a junior ten committee each week and a dress code was enforced by the students. A governing committee of two members from each grade at Washington and Jefferson junior high schools was in charge. Pingpong, pool, chess, and checkers were also popular. Yearly membership was one dollar, but the dances were free. (32)


See: Joseph D. PLAISTER

Photo courtesy" Bob Reding



1. "Dubuque Community Y," Online: http://www.dubuquey.org/about-us/

2. Dubuque City Directory, 1856, p. 184

3. Gehling, Maddie, "Years in the Making," Telegraph Herald, September 18, 2016, p. 1A

4. "Dubuque Community Y..."

5. Ibid.

6. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, January 11, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760111&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

7. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, October 1, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18761001&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

8. "Took the First Steps," Dubuque Daily Herald, June 29, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18920629&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

9. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, September 9, 1892, p. 4

10. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, April 10, 1894, p. 4

11. "The Good Work Begun," Dubuque Daily Herald, August 30, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18920830&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. "Perseverance Has Won," Dubuque Daily Herald, December 31, 1893, p. 8

15. "A Y. M. C. A. Building," Dubuque Daily Herald, November 11, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18921111&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

16. "A Most Generous Offer," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 27, 1894, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18940327&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

17. "A Liberal Response," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 28, 1894, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18940328&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

18. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, April 3, 1894, p. 4.

19. "The Stout Auditorium," Dubuque Daily Herald, June 14, 1894, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18940614&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

20. "From the Old to the New," Dubuque Daily Herald, October 16, 1894, p. 4

21. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 8, 1895, p. 8

22. "Will be a Summer Cottage," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, May 21, 1902, p. 6

23. "The Pony Club," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 25, 1903, p. 6

24. "New Departure in Y. M. C. A. Work," Telegraph Herald, July 18, 1904, p. 8

25. "Pioneer Clubs to be Organized," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, November 2, 1924, p. 8

26. "YMCA Solves Leisure Time Problem for Jobless Youth," Telegraph Herald, October 22, 1936, p. 39

27. "State YMCA Meet Opens Friday," Telegraph-Herald, March 14, 1940, p. 17

28. "YMCA to Stage Tournament Among 'Y Basketball Teams," Telegraph Herald, March 28, 1937, p. 16

29. "Tourney Opens on March 15th," Telegraph Herald, March 5, 1948, p. 10

30. "Variety Program Planned for YMCA Teen Age Social," Telegraph-Herald, July 15, 1943, p. 16

31. Gehling, p. 6A

32. "Energetic Kids Live It Up A Little at Friday "Teen Haven," Telegraph-Herald, February 9, 1958, p. 10