At the turn of the century the Students' Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, and the Young Men's Christian Association all flourished and were vigorously supported in the University. As early as 1897 an effort to bring these organizations together had proved unsuccessful.
For many years the Y.M.C.A. had rented Sackett and McMillan Halls, on State Street three blocks north of the campus, from the Presbyterian Church, but with the increasingly large scope of the work in religious education, social service, and missions, a new home for the Y.M.C.A. was badly needed. A site at the southwest corner of State and Washington streets was purchased, and in October, 1911, the Michigan Alumnus (18:12) announced: "The new building will contain dormitories for 75 to 100 men, offices, reading rooms, and bowling alleys. Shower baths and plunges will be included in the equipment. A large banquet hall will fill a long-felt need of the Association. The structure will be … four stories in height."
About a year later John D. Rockefeller offered to give $60,000 toward the project provided the Association could raise a like sum by October 1, 1915. The Alumnus for October, 1915, announced that alumni and friends had been able to raise the required subscription of $60,000, which was added to Mr. Rockefeller's gift. Plans for the construction were immediately underway, but were not, however, as ambitious as those first made. Otis and Clark, Chicago architects, were awarded the contract, and Professor John R. Allen of the Engineering College, a member of the Board of Directors of the S.C.A., superintended the erection of the building for the Association. The cornerstone was laid on May 16, 1916.
The structure was of colonial design and measured 100 by 50 feet. The cost of the building was about $70,000. An additional $30,000 for the site and $10,000 for the furnishings brought the total to $125,000.
Page 1670Lane Hall, named in honor of Judge Victor H. Lane, a member of the Law School faculty and for many years president of the Y.M.C.A., was formally opened on March 2, 1917, with addresses by President Harry B. Hutchins, Professor Leroy Waterman, the Reverend Lloyd Douglas of Ann Arbor, and Mr. N. C. Fetter, secretary of the Y.M.C.A. In the basement were two offices, a large club room, classrooms, and apartments for janitors and a caretaker; the main floor was devoted to the Board room, offices, five studies for student pastors, and a library; the second floor contained an auditorium seating 450 people and equipment for motion-picture projection in the gallery opposite the platform, a kitchen, dining rooms, four classrooms, two guest rooms, and a private bath for guests.
A gradual decrease in the effectiveness of the student religious organizations became evident, however, particularly in the early years following World War I. Other agencies expressed student interests more effectively, especially such social centers as the Union and the League, while many of the services which had been performed by the student associations were taken over by the churches and by the University. Lane Hall, nevertheless, continued as a center for the religious life of the men, although control of the building passed to the Student Christian Association, under which both the Y.M.C.A. in Lane Hall and the Y.W.C.A. in Newberry Hall carried out their programs. This arrangement continued until 1936, when the student organizations were discontinued and the Student Religious Association was created by the Board of Regents. The trustees of the Student Christian Association transferred the two properties, Lane Hall and Newberry Hall, to the Board of Governors of the new organization, the Student Religious Association, with the title resting in the Regents of the University.
At the present time the Student Religious Association has its headquarters in Lane Hall, with offices for the different religions and denominations under the charge of a Co-ordinator, DeWitt C. Baldwin, who is a University officer.