Jane Morris conceived the idea of the Morris Memorial in 1909 to honor her recently deceased husband, George. She envisioned a community center that would provide a social atmosphere and enhance the lives of community residents.
The Morris officially opened December 7, 1910.
At the time of its opening membership was limited to boys and men over the age of 12 who were asked to pay an annual fee from $1 to $10 depending on their financial capabilities. Three years later, in 1913, the Morris Memorial opened its membership to include women. By the end of that year women’s membership grew to 172 members!
At the end of the year in 1912 there were over 20 organizations that used the Morris for meetings, lectures, and paid activities. Free entertainment attracted 5,000 people a year, while paid activities brought as many as 2,500 people.
Activities included lectures on topics such as coal mining, the weather bureau, birds, and travel. In addition to the lectures and frequent meetings there were also many sports competitions that took place at the Morris including basketball, bowling, boxing, fencing, and gymnastics.
Did You Know?
The following interesting facts regarding operation of the Morris were taken from historical records between the years of 1942 to 1947:
- December 17, 1942. The Social Room was officially finished and called the Rumpus Room. This room was used for teen dances on Friday and Saturday nights and was considered a dance club amongst the town. This room allowed teens to smoke as young as age twelve with parent’s consent.
- November 8, 1943.The Morris Board received a letter from the USO, United Services Organizations, asking if the Morris might be used to accommodate returning soldiers from the war, as the Chatham Railroad Station was the transfer point between Albany-Boston and Pittsfield-Pine Plains. The Board agreed that all facilities would be open for free to all armed forces members and the Morris would be reimbursed by the USO.
- 1944: The Rumpus Room was fixed up according to the USO and soldier’s desires and was even equipped with a writing table.
- February 15, 1946: The Board banned a man from the all Morris facilities for use of profane language
- April 11, 1946. Discussions were brought up by a Mr. R. Hughson that the Morris be used as an open recreational center and be called Morris Memorial Association. They would hire a recreational manager that would direct all recreational activities at the Morris and in the village of Chatham. The Board agreed on this as long as things did not change with their club and memberships, there was a distinction made between the Morris Memorial Cooperation and the Morris Memorial Association.
The Morris became the center of social and recreational events in the town of Chatham and most of Columbia County.
Hosting balls for Columbia Memorial Hospital, putting on an annual Halloween Party for the town and providing Chatham High School with sport equipment were just some of the many services that the Morris provided.