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Minneapolis YMCA Photographs, Slides, and Audiovisual Materials

Identifier: Y.MPL.007


The bulk of this collection includes photographs of branch buildings, programs, events, activities, and camps of the Minneapolis YMCA. Many of the photos depict youth programs and activities, such as camping, sports, and aquatics. The collection also includes some slides and miscellaneous audiovisual materials.


  • Creation: 1895-2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within ( 1950-1990)


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.


The YMCA of Minneapolis was started in 1866. The initial aim was "to seek out men taking up their residence in Minneapolis and its vicinity and endeavor to bring them under moral and religious influences by aiding them in the selection of suitable boarding places and employment, by introducing them to the members and privileges of the Association, securing their attendance at some place of worship on the Sabbath, and by every means in their power surrounding them with Christian associates".

The first few decades were devoted primarily to Christian fellowship and there was little in the way of administrative and financial resources or facilities. In these early years, the organization leased space and moved several times.

By the 1880s, the purpose and the activities of the Minneapolis YMCA expanded beyond evangelism to more broadly support the intellectual, physical and spiritual development of young men, boys and the community. In addition to traditional bible study and prayer meetings, the Minneapolis YMCA provided a wide variety of educational and vocational training classes and had started to provide physical fitness programs, equipment, and facilities. The city of Minneapolis was experiencing growth and economic development and the Minneapolis YMCA saw a rise in membership and financial flexibility. In 1887, the YMCA started building its first branch on the corner of Tenth Street and Mary Place. The building opened in 1892. Community outreach was also a focus of the Minneapolis YMCA. The Minneapolis area was divided into six districts, and the programs and services offered by the YMCA were specifically designed to meet the economic, cultural, and demographic needs of each district's population.

The new century brought growing focus on creating opportunities to develop the community's youth. In 1907, the first Minneapolis YMCA-owned resident camp, Icaghowan, opened with five acres on Green Lake near Chisago City, Minnesota. Hi-Y Clubs, short for "High School Y," were organized in each of the five Minneapolis high schools. The clubs were designed to extend high standards of Christian living among the students. Participation was initially limited to boys selected for their leadership in academics, athletics, social life and other student activities. As the program developed, the reach extended to junior high and grade school boys, with the older, high school boys serving as leaders and mentors.

World War I (1914-1918) had a large impact on the Minneapolis YMCA; more than 185 men and women were recruited for active war service on behalf of the national YMCA. The Minneapolis YMCA focused its efforts on programs designed to aid in the war effort. After the war, the Minneapolis YMCA organization focused on expanding and improving both its branches, services and programs throughout the city of Minneapolis and also the camping programs. A new Downtown Branch building and University Branch building opened and three camps, Camp Menogyn, Camp Warren and Camp Ihduhapi, were purchased between 1922 and 1929.

By 1930, the YMCA of Minneapolis had intentionally adopted an approach which placed greater emphasis on programs and services, and less on facilities (buildings, dormitories, cafeterias, etc.). The Minneapolis YMCA believed it was most effective to reach men and boys wherever they lived, worked, and played and not just from one centralized location.

During the Great Depression, the Minneapolis YMCA implemented salary freezes and staff cuts so the organization could continue to serve the largest possible number of people in need. Despite the growing scarcity of resources and funding, the Minneapolis YMCA offered free membership and programs for the unemployed, maintained its camping budget. While established programs continued bringing in more members, the organization was always in search of new and innovative programming to continue to meet the changing needs of the community. In 1938, Minneapolis Y’s Men Clubs established the first Christmas Tree Sales program – selling Christmas trees to provide YMCA camping scholarships for disadvantaged children.

During World War II (US involvement 1941-1945), the Minneapolis YMCA heeded the call of duty. In response to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Minneapolis YMCA partnered with the Minnesota Federation of Churches to fight against racial and ethnic hatreds, taking a stand against war rhetoric and propaganda. Hi-Y students sent reading materials, athletic equipment and other items to "youths interned in enemy prison camps", in addition to collecting scrap metal to be used in the war effort. The Y branches soon became recreational centers for servicemen, and provided the latest war news for civilians.

In the years following World War II, the Minneapolis YMCA continued to provide programs for youth and increased programs for families. In 1946, the Youth in Government program was established, designed to promote civic understanding, responsibility, and offered leadership opportunities for Minnesota youth. To augment the existing camping programs, day camps were established during the 1950s to provide a shorter-term, less rustic camping experience, with the establishment of Green Triangle in 1950, Manitou in 1954, Kici Yapi in 1955, and Camp Christmas Tree in 1958. In 1947, the Indian Guides program was established in Minneapolis. The program provided opportunities for fathers and sons to develop a closer bond through joint activities focused on learning and engaging with Native American cultures.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the YMCA struggled to create and update programming that still resonated with disillusioned young people. Integrating more diversity into existing programs was an organizational focus, demonstrated by girls becoming fully integrated into youth programs. There was also a renewed focus on serving the unique needs of youth in urban communities. In 1964 the Minneapolis YMCA reorganized and the official name changed to the Young Men's Christian Association of Metropolitan Minneapolis in recognition of the growing suburban population also being served.

The following decades were focused on improving and updating Minneapolis YMCA facilities, as well as core programming. Child care programs, including daycare and after school programs, expanded significantly.

On January 1, 2012, the Minneapolis YMCA and the St. Paul YMCA merged to form one of the five largest Y organizations in the nation, the YMCA of the Twin Cities.

(Information taken from Breaking New Ground, Building Strong Lives: 140 Years of Youth Work with the Minneapolis YMCA by Paul Hillmer, 2006; from Builders of Men: A History of the Minneapolis Young Men's Christian Association: 1866-1936by S. Wirt Wiley and Florence Lehmann; and from the collection).


28.5 Cubic Feet (33 boxes)


Photographs, slides, and audiovisual materials depicting the buildings, programs, events, and activities of the Minneapolis YMCA.


These documents are organized into the following sections:

  1. Branch buildings.
  2. Branch programs and events.
  3. Miscellaneous programs and events.
  4. Camps.
  5. Audiovisual materials.

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Alex Bentley, January 2015.

Includes accession numbers: YTC20200214 added in 2020; YTC20190514 and YTC20221010 added in 2023.

Catalog Record ID number: 9973950000901701

An Inventory of Its Photographs, Slides, and Audiovisual Materials
Finding aid prepared by Alex Bentley and Kathryn Oosterhuis.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • February 2023: Revised to include new acquisitions
  • August 2023: Revised to include new acquisitions

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area