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Ceremony rededicates historical YMCA building

Published: Friday, November 9, 2012

Updated: Friday, November 9, 2012 01:11

The year was 1915. America was in the middle of a world war, Babe Ruth hit his first major league home run, and the YMCA building opened its doors for the students of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas.

Ninety-seven years later — after renovations, a flood that destroyed the lower level and more renovations — the YMCA buiding renovation is complete. A rededication ceremony was held Thursday, concluding with a traditional Fightin’ Texas Aggie yell practice.

“My fish year, when Bear Bryant was coach and John David Crow was a senior, I remember having yell practice on the steps of the YMCA,” said Richard Box, chairman of the A&M System Board of Regents.

The YMCA building was originally an area for students to relax, play pool or even swim. However, in 1995, these attractions were replaced with offices. Over the years these changes weakened the centrality of the building, causing it to be vacated in 2003 and extensively renovated eight years later.

“One of the biggest renovations to the YMCA was the removal of the chapel wing,” said Tura King, assistant director of marketing and communications at A&M. “Also during the renovation, the original tiled fireplaces from 1914 were discovered.”

Before the Memorial Student Center was built, the YMCA building was the center of student life.

“Even though [students] were very busy with their studies, military training and drills, they still needed a little time to let off some steam and make relationships work and to relax just a little bit time to time,” said University President R. Bowen Loftin. “That’s the context that led to the creation of this building. There was a need for some place focused on the students in a non-academic kind of way. This was the beginning of the creation of the true campus culture of Texas A&M.”

When one of the cornerstones was removed during renovations, workers discovered a time capsule from the Class of 1914. The capsule contained a copy of The Battalion detailing the groundbreaking of the YMCA, a University catalogue from 1911-1912, a 1912 student handbook, documents that list YMCA officers and YMCA bylaws and a class roster of the Class of 1914 — all of which can be viewed at Cushing Library.

Frederick Gieseke, founder of Texas A&M’s architecture program is credited with the original design of the building. The building houses the offices of the dean of faculties and associate provost, International Faculty and Scholar Services, Faculty Senate and the Department of Philosophy.

“Lots of history goes with this building,” said Cynthia Gay, director of external relations at A&M. “It is wonderful that a building this historic is still prominent on campus. The events that have taken place in this building are significant to Texas A&M’s history.”

 

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