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Courtesy of the CF&I Blast

The Steel Work Y.M.C.A. built with the commission of John D. Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller Jr. for more than $400,000 would provide an educational and recreational facility to the steel workers and their families until it closed its doors for good in 1950. It was claimed that this was the largest industrial Y in the country, possibly in the world, it would cost the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company roughly $4,000 a month to operate the facility, which would eventually run the Steel Works Y into the ground as the company would not want to fund the Y at a loss any longer.

The building began construction in October of 1917, and would open in January of 1920. It was the hope of the Y that every family would find something that would prove helpful. It would play motion pictures, concerts and lectures in the auditorium built to seat more than 1,200 people. It had a gym, billiard room, bowling alleys, a lounging and writing room, a soda fountain and reading room. It developed a technical library for use of all the steel workers and was also a branch of the public library in Pueblo. The large banquet room in the building was one of Pueblo’s finest ballrooms.

The education facility in the building taught a wide range of classes such as Americanization, languages, civics, accounting, salesmanship, arithmetic of all levels, chemistry and electricity and automobile troubleshooting. The educational and social activities at the Steel Works Y drew out the segregated communities of the separate nationalities in the south side of Pueblo. Before the Y, the many emigrant communities of Pueblo kept to themselves.

The building was complete with a cafeteria which claimed the best priced meals in town for the steelworkers. There was a swimming pool which the Y boasted as one of the best in the state, which would be the practice pool for the steel workers’ teams that would claim state championships. The bowling alleys would be used by the different departments of the works that would make teams and competition for the cup was a great competition. Other athletic activities, such as basketball, volleyball and boxing were great magnets to the facility as well.

When the company went into receivership in 1933, the Y closed its doors temporarily as the funding was no longer there. In 1937 a membership drive began, and if enough memberships could be obtained, the Y would re-open. One of the most important things about this membership campaign and those that would follow is the “pay when you work” clause of the memberships. Even if employees were on leave for any reason and could not pay the dues, they would still be allowed to us the Y facilities as long as they were members. With 2,071 members pledged to join, the building opened again in October 1937. Most if not all of the accommodations that were previously in use at the Y were still in use after its re-opening, including the bowling alleys, dormitories, cafeteria and education classes for both children and adults began shortly after reopening.

Every year after re-opening, the Y member drives tried to maintain membership levels in an effort to keep the Y open. Each campaign kept membership levels between 28 and 33 per cent of the employees of the steel works were members between 1937 and 1949. In an editorial in the Pueblo Star-Journal in 1948, it was urged that the Y be kept open as it was a dominate feature in the social, recreational and education lives of those in South Pueblo.

In 1950, the Y would close due to the lack of funds from the company being provided to maintain the facility any longer. The Steel Works Y closed in March 1950 and was bought and sold to different independent bodies, some with the intent of using it as a Y facility for the general public. In 1955 the building was purchased by Arnold Dittmart and renamed the Pueblo Athletic Club and proposed flying lessons, hunting and fishing trips and boxing matches. But all these plans, as did all other plans to use the building, fell through. That year, for tax purposes, the building was assessed at $76,265 and the land at $3,550. In 1959 the Rosser Investment Company purchased the Y and shut down all operations and boarded the windows. In 1963 the Y reverted back to the CF&I, and the building began to be dismantled in December of 1963.