Morrison Hall – YMCA
The YMCA serves more than 30 million people in over 120 countries worldwide. When most people think of the YMCA, they think of fitness, spiritual enrichment, and family fun. In fact, YMCA’s are the biggest non-profit community service organizations in the USA (YMCA.net). Seldom do people equate a good college education with YMCA activity; however, there were a few at Davidson College who thought otherwise.
In 1888 Henry Louis Smith, a professor at Davidson College, who soon after became president, initiated the request for a YMCA on campus. Since 1855, the “Williams Society” serviced the spiritual needs of Davidson men, and by 1879 they had become known as the campus YMCA. Dr. Smith lobbied fifty surrounding churches until he came up with the $4,000 to pay for the cost of construction. The YMCA would be called the Morrison Memorial Hall, to commemorate the first President of Davidson College (Old Gym is Demolished: Morrison Hall).
Construction started in 1890 and was completed two years later (Davidson College
Bulletin). Morrison Hall was the only building constructed on campus between the civil war and 1900; furthermore, it was the first college YMCA building in the South (Graham).
The YMCA was not just a place to play and exercise. It was a place where the students’ spiritual needs were serviced. One Davidson College student said it best. “The badge of our association is the triangle emblematic of the perfect man… the man spiritual, the man intellectual, the man physical” (The Gymnasium). The new YMCA planned to address all aspects of the complete man. Another Davidson College student also commented, “As I look back over the years I believe that the college YMCA had more to do with the development of my spiritual life than the church” (Lingle 55).
In its fifty-five years of service, Morrison Hall served as a study hall, gymnasium, skating rink, lecture hall, dormitory, class rooms, biological lab, R.O.T.C. armory and storeroom, and student store. In these years it has been known as “Morrison Hall,” “The Eagles Nest,” “Jackson Hall,” and “The Stud.” However, as Davidson College grew and evolved, the old YMCA building became more and more unattractive. Eventually its historical architecture became and unsightly “eyesore,” and the building was torn down in 1945 (Old Gym is Demolished: Morrison Hall).
Although Morrison Hall no longer stands, student’s needs for spiritual enrichment and physical fitness still exist. These days, Davidson College Presbyterian Church provides for the spiritual needs of the campus. On the other hand, Alvarez Student Union and Baker Sports Complex provide for the fitness aspect of the students.
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Author: Jonathan Hubbard
Date: October 2003
Cite as: Hubbard, Jonathan. “Morrison Hall: The Old YMCA” Davidson Encyclopedia October 2003. https://digitalprojects.davidson.edu/omeka/s/encyclopedia/page/morrison-hall-ymca