Over 129 years ago, in a room atop the famous “Lobsitz’s Bakery on Pynchon Street, the course of Springfield’s history was changed forever .
Where It All Began
On November 19, 1891 a group of concerned citizen’s determined to create a “home away from home” for youngsters met. The space was small and the facilities limited, but the room which was 125’ x 35’ provided a place for the “street boys” of Springfield to study, learn and build strong bodies. Through the foresight and wisdom of this small group of concerned citizen’s 346 boys were served in the first year of operation. The community rallied around this new organization and 120 businesses and professional people generously supported this effort.
Henry Spurdle was the first superintendent of the Springfield Boys Club and took his work very seriously. He not only helped to look out for the boys in the Club but went out into the community to find the kids who needed the Club’s services the most. He visited homes and the police station to see if there were any youth who needed the Club’s help.
The Club soon was so popular that space became an issue and the organization was moved to a new location over Roger’s Carriage Shop on Sanford Street. With the newly found space new classes were added along with gym and basketball.
On December 14, 1910 the new building on Chestnut and Ferry streets was dedicated. The new location provided two gymnasiums, space for a stacked library, room for vocational classes and a place for arts and crafts. Raising the funds for the new building gathered national attention for its success, the campaign raised $62,000 in 5 ½ days! The building was updated in 1925 and with the generosity of the Kiwanis Club of Springfield a pool was added.
Chestnut Street, which is how it is referred too, stood strong in proud until February 18, 1964 when a fire destroyed the boy’s “home away from home”.
In October 1967 the new Club opened on Carew Street and with it a new era, which now included girls. The new facility included an Olympic size swimming pool, two gyms and a library. Through the years it has transitioned in its use of space, but not in the purpose-to create a safe place for kid’s to develop into productive members of society.
A long and storied list of alumni who have called the Springfield Boys & Girls Club their home – several Congressman, including Richard Neal, at least one governor, many senators and state representatives, several mayors, Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick, sheriffs, judges, entrepreneurs- Peter Picknelly, lawyers, bankers, doctors, members of the clergy, police and firefighters, labor leaders, and professional athletes- NBA star Travis Best, Vinny Del Negro and NFL prospect Christian Wilkins. The Club also spawned many who never left the realm of youth development, many choosing the Club as their career, past executive director Gary McCarthy, and assistant executive director Charles Hollins.
A lot has changed in 129 years. Kids are changing, the demographics of the neighborhood are changing, the city is changing, and the world has changed profoundly since that November day in 1891. But one thing remains constant – the Club is still a place where youth find friends, mentors, skills they never knew they possessed, guidance, hope and opportunity. For the 129 year history, the doors to the Club have stayed open to all children and no child have been turned away. Continuing the path to a safe, fun, enriching life experience for another 129 years.