Friday, January 24, 2020

The Downtown YMCA

From Blair Tarr at KSHS
As far as the old Y goes, it was constructed in 1905.  It had an auditorium which was called Gemmell Hall, named after (as the plaques below the window indicate) Robert Brown Gemmell, a Santa Fe executive who was a big supporter of the Y.

By 1910--14 years after Gemmell's death--friends of his thought there should be a more substantial tribute to him in the Y building.  They hit upon the idea of a stained glass window to be placed in Gemmell Hall.  Through 1910 there were several short reports in the Topeka newspapers about the progress made on getting the window done.

Finally, the window was installed and a dedication ceremony was held on either January 2 or 3, 1911.  The article was fairly long, so I have split it up into two attachments.

I'm sure the other plaques on the wall are for other tributes that existed in the old building.  Lerrigo (sp?) was a long time secretary of the Topeka Y.  In the mid-1950s a chapel was dedicated to the memory of Paul Sweet; a program of the ceremony in the Archives shows that his sisters were present for the ceremony.  I forget what the third plaque is, but I'm rather sure that none really have anything to do with the window.

I still don't know who made the window.  The newspapers keep referencing the window being made in New York, but not the company.

BTW, I noticed the building was actually at 9th and Quincy, rather than 9th & Harrison.  Photos looking down 9th toward the Capitol show the distinctive steeple of the Baptist Church that was across the street from the Capitol on the NE corner of 9th and Jackson.  It would appear that the site of the old Y is today--what else--a parking lot (NW corner).