Celebrating 125 Years of Hope and Opportunity!

We are hosting a 125th Anniversary celebration to showcase the rich history of the Clubs and the memorable stories of the people who have passed through our doors.

Stay tuned…more details to follow!

For more information about our celebration or to learn how you can help us celebrate our 125th Anniversary, contact Jennifer Jock at jjock@bgcsyracuse.org or 315-579-1103.

Calling All Alumni…

Were you part of the Boys & Girls Club family? We are reaching out to our former Club members, staff, Board members and volunteers to include them in our anniversary celebrations. For more information, please contact Jennifer Jock at jjock@bgcsyracuse.org or 315-579-1103 or visit our Alumni & Friends page.

Our great past…leads to Great Futures

In 1892, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse began as the “Boys’ Evening Home” in the May Memorial Church and was open evenings to errand boys and newsboys who might otherwise have had nowhere to go for recreation.

A corporation was formed in 1901, and the Club became the “Syracuse Boys’ Club”. Its quarters were then moved to 240 East Water Street. The move stimulated membership that grew to 450 boys by 1912. The Club later moved into a leased building at 436 East Jefferson Street, but it too soon became inadequate for the many activities of the Club.

After World War I, the President of the Board of Directors, Henry W. Cook of the Nettleton Company, and their outstanding, dedicated Executive Director, Frederick Zerbe, initiated a vigorous campaign for funds to construct a new building. In April 1920, a deed was signed for the property at 430 East Genesee Street. The house was residence of Dr. Frederick Flaherty, a physician and professor at Syracuse University. It had been built in the early 1830’s on a day in early April 1922; four boys began the ceremonial tearing down of the old house to prepare for construction of the new clubhouse. Director Zerbe described the clubhouse-to-be:

“We will have nothing elaborate…it will be roomy and homey, but it has been so planned that the boys can play with comfort without being cautious, and it will be “grand” to the extent that every boy’s pride will inspire him to keep it as he would keep the parlor at home”

The building, said to be comparable with “the finest Boys’ Club house in America”, was occupied in 1922. In August 1923, Director Zerbe reported that membership had grown to over 1200 boys. The Club was praised as a melting pot of many national origins. Although designed with underprivileged boys in mind, it was open to boys of all economic levels.

In 1929, Justice Leo Yehle commended the Club for its part in preventing juvenile delinquency and recommended that more Boys’ Clubs be established in other parts of the city. The full-time staff of the Club had to be reduced during the Depression, but federal funds were available for part-time helpers, many of whom were University students.

During the Second World War, the Clubs weekly newsletter was sent to 790 of the 3,174 Club members who were in the armed services.

By the late 1940’s, the Club had three branches: the Polish Legion Branch, the Neighborhood House Branch, and the Manlius Branch. Membership soared to nearly 6,000 boys from “50 different nationalities and races”.

An important source of support for the Club during the ensuing years was the Old Boys’ Association, which was formed in 1946. This group, composed entirely of former members, joined for the purpose of providing “all possible support and aid” for the activities of the Club. Another important source of support has been the Women’s Auxiliary, which has contributed thousands of hours and dollars since 1904 to assist the many projects and activities of the Club.

During the next three decades, the Club continued to offer its services, and the membership remained fairly constant at the main Clubhouse much less accessible to those it wished to serve. Inflation makes it difficult to maintain an adequate paid staff for such a spacious, multi-level building. After several years of consideration, the decision was made to move again.

In 1990, after many years of welcoming girls into the Club, the organization changed its name to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse”. In 1991, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse was honored by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for its outstanding achievements in membership quality & growth.

Today, the Club has four Clubhouses and two school-based sites: East Fayette Club, 2100 East Fayette Street; Hamilton Street Club, 201 Hamilton Street; Central Village Club, 212 Van Buren Street; Shonnard Street Club, 201 Shonnard Street; and Huntington K-8 and LeMoyne Elementary.

We serve just over 1,000 members annually – to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need it most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.