History Bytes: Theophilus North’s Nine Cities of Newport, Part 4

February 20, 2019

The following History Byte is the fourth of a nine-part series. Click here to read them all.

The cornerstone-laying ceremony at the Mary Street YMCA, 1908. NHS, P2134.

Thornton Wilder’s Fourth City in Theophilus North “belongs to the Army and the Navy.” One of the first things Theophilus does when he arrives in Newport is secure a room at the Young Man’s Christian Association, “not the Army and Navy Y…but the civilian Y.” The YMCA where Theophilus stays was a real place in Newport on Mary Street. The Mary Street Y was constructed in 1909-1910 by the YMCA as a venue for Christian men and alternative to improper activities. Funds were donated by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt in memory of his father Cornelius Vanderbilt II. The YMCA remained on Mary Street until 1974 when the organization moved to a new building in Middletown. The building was then converted in to a luxury hotel named Vanderbilt Hall and later Vanderbilt Grace. Alfred Vanderbilt was one of the passengers who did not survive the sinking of the Lusitania which was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915.