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Seamen's House YMCA records

Identifier: Y.GNY.11


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 is correspondence and programs related to 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.


  • 1921-1977
  • Majority of material found within ( 1956-1977).

Language of Materials


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.


Founded in 1921 as the Merchant Seamen’s Branch, the Seamen' House branch of the New York YMCA 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, 1852-2002by Pamela Bayless, 2002; and from An Event on Mercer Street,by Terry Donoghue, 1951; and from the YMCA Seamen's House records.)


1.1 Cubic Feet (3 boxes)


Collected minutes, brochures, correspondence, and reports from the Seamen's House YMCA (New York, N.Y.), primarily from the period 1956-1977.


These documents are organized into the following sections:

  1. Board of Managers.
  2. Correspondence.
  3. Reports.
  4. Brochures.
  5. Buildings.
  6. Finances.

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Louise Merriam, August, 2006.

Catalog Record ID number: 4901076

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Louise Merriam.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area