A tradition has been handed down for more than 80 years in the Troy community. The Lincoln Community Center, established in 1924, has striven to build a strong environment for the people in its community. Over the decades, many changes have occurred to keep with the times. We now offer karate and pickle ball instead of Bridge Club and the naming of an LCC Queen. The only thing that will never change is the passion that the LCC has for the community of Troy.
The Center Gets Its Start
Lincoln Community Center’s story goes back a long way prior to its construction in 1939 of the building that bears its name. The Center’s roots reach back to before 1865. By that year, a school-house was located on the lot that now is the Center’s home. Part of the original foundation of that schoolhouse helps support the Center today. The Lincoln School was in operation from 1865 to 1874. After 1874, with the passing of the Arnett Bill by the state legislature, the Board of Education allowed Blacks to attend Edwards School. The original Lincoln School was no longer used for an all age black school, but the building was used to teach younger preschool aged black children reading, writing, and arithmetic. James Jones, who attended Lincoln School, was the first black to attend a public school in Troy. He enrolled at Forest School in 1875, and was the first black to attend public school in Troy City Schools. Also, John Vernon Nesbitt was the first Black to graduate from Troy High School in 1891; he also was a student at the Lincoln School in 1865.
The transformation from neighborhood school to community center began around 1916. In that year, the Miami Athletics, a semi-pro football team, asked the Board of Education to allow the team to use the building as a dressing room and the grounds as a practice field. In the following year, a group of citizens went one step further and asked the board to turn the grounds over to the community for a playground and meeting place. The school board complied and soon after Lincoln Center Hall was opened.
It didn’t take long for the people of the area to take advantage of the hall. Dances, parties, civic meetings, outdoor festivals and a Sunday school all became regular features. Yet more was needed than a building and some activities. The meeting place needed direction, and with that in mind the Lincoln Community Association was established in 1924. It later became known as the Lincoln Center Community Association. The spirit of the association is probably best summed up by the preamble to its constitution. The Center was to: “Promote the welfare of the Negroes of Troy and the vicinity, allow the use of its grounds and hall for social and festive purposes, establish recreational facilities for the children of Troy, and disperse charity to the aged and needy, so far as funds will permit.”
Though good times were ahead, the early and mid-1930s were times of hardship for the Center, as they were for most of the country. Dr. W. M. Bradford was elected president of the Lincoln Center Community Association in 1931 and served in that position until 1942. He exerted his influence not only on the new building, but on the formation of its programs as well. In October of 1931, the Center’s income amounted to $35.25, taken in from two dances. The expenses were anything but monumental; an orchestra was paid only $11.00 for a night’s work and the monthly gas and electric bills were each $1.00, but it was still hard to make ends meet. In May of 1932, the Center’s treasury showed a balance of $4.56 and soon after the building became a victim of the Depression and closed. For five years the Center waited as the country struggled through the Depression, but the dream of a community Center remained and in August of 1937, a reorganizational meeting was held.
E.T. Atwell, of the National Recreation Association, provided professional counseling and advice that laid the groundwork for an advisory board, Board of Directors, and the employment of a fulltime director. The other new face was Mr. John M. Spencer, who had agreed to lend financial backing to the Center. By 1938, talk had gone beyond merely opening the old building to construction of a new building, complete with a full size gym and a 54,000 gallon heated pool. In April of 1938, the project was approved. A year and a half later, the new building was dedicated, with Cyrus Russell as its first director. The Lincoln Center Community Association had not only survived the Depression, it planned and constructed a building that was one of only two of its kind, for a town Troy’s size, in America.
1940's - The Center’s First Decade
Many people played a part in the construction of Lincoln Community Center and in molding the programs and ideals the Center supported in its early years. The name of John M. Spencer and Dr. W. M. Bradford, though, stand out above the rest. Mr. Spencer became involved with the project in 1937. He was an advocate of organized recreation and Lincoln Center was not the only course of action he considered, but Mr. Spencer decided it was the best plan, so he committed himself to the construction of a community building that could be used for recreational, social, and public uses. Within two years, he saw his dream come true.
As the Center moved through its first decade, different people began to surface as guiding influences for the Center. Dr. Bradford was replaced as president in 1942 by P.W. Sewell. Cyrus Russell, the first director, moved west and was replaced by S.S. Slater in 1938. Mr. Slater was known for his athletic achievements at Wilberforce and Michigan Universities respectfully and the Center followed his lead. A Golden Gloves boxing program was started with members traveling to Chicago for national competitions. There was a full program of sports with basketball as the most popular and most successful. Another important addition to the Center’s activities was the playground, which was one of the biggest bargains in the Center’s history.
Mr. Spencer acquired two acres of land behind the building for use as a playground, but it was sunken and poorly drained and had to be filled in before it could be put to use. It would have been an expensive project, but much of the work was done for an unusual fee – a few rolls of toilet paper. It all started when Hobart Brothers Corporation ran out of toilet paper and sent out an SOS to nearby Lincoln Center for an emergency supply. One thing led to another and before long, Hobart Brothers had arranged to do much of the excavation behind the building, free-of-charge. The company ended up with toilet paper, the Center ended up with a playground and everyone ended up happy. The playground work was completed in 1953. Lincoln Community Center developed a philosophy of being open to everyone, as Mr. Slater later commented, with a clientele ranging from age 8 to 80.
The 1940's provided the Center with its share of trials. World War II shortened the building’s hours and Mr. Slater left in 1942 after a disagreement with the board. The boxing program also had to be scrapped because it was too expensive. The new director, Samuel H. Lawton, took over in August of 1942. The play school, a preschool giving children a chance to become familiar with learning and making friends, started in 1942 under the direction of Mrs. Myrna Holland. Eventually the war called Mr. Lawton away and from 1943-46 he served with the U.S. Navy. Mrs. Elda Carnes stepped in and helped with the day-to-day operation of the Center while the Board of Directors took over Mr. Lawton’s financial responsibilities. Mr. Lawton returned in 1946 and the Center’s activities expanded. Mrs. Carnes took over in 1943 and continued to direct the school until 1951.
Joseph P. Carnes became President of the Center in 1947. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, sports, the play school, social groups, dances, carnivals, family nights, and plays were all regular happenings at the Center by this time. In 1947, Mr. Spencer pay rolled the construction of a two-story house across from the Center for use as a home for the director. The Center still controls the house and receives income from renting it to two families. By the end of the decade, Lincoln Community Center had firmly established itself as an important institution in Troy as well as a Center for social life. The building had grown out of the Depression and matured during the war and looked forward to what appeared to be a healthy future.
1950's - Always Growing
The decade of the 1950s was a time of both growth and establishment for the Lincoln Community Center. During this decade the Center became more financially sound and recreational programs continued to be developed. In fact, the decade started with the Center being incorporated, thus getting rights as a charitable organization. Perhaps the most significant event of the 1950s was the John Spencer Trust Fund, established upon his death in 1954. The $50,000.00 fund was arranged through the Troy Foundation and was to be used for operational expenses at the Center. Mr. Spencer, former president of then Hobart Manufacturing Company, was instrumental in helping the Center get started. Mr. Spencer’s last financial contribution to the Center brought his monetary contribution to $76,990.43. Another event important to the financial stability of the Center was the last payment on the $20,000.00 bond for the construction of the building. The City of Troy retired this bond in 1959. Also in 1959, the newly-formed United Fund of Troy began contributing to the Center the fund contribution amounted to $8,500. Previous to 1959, the Center received money from the Troy Community Chest.
One of the first activities to expand at the Center in the 1950s was an organized playground program. In 1939, the original playground consisted of a small level area with a few pieces of equipment placed there by the Troy Park Board. Later, Mr. Spencer bought a two acre strip of land adjacent to the rear of the playground and gave it to the city for additional playground area. The strip of land was a sunken, poorly drained area, eight feet deep in some places. The site was used as a land-fill for several years. In 1951, it was level enough to begin surfacing. With financial aid from the Troy Foundation, the land was surfaced and it was understood that further work would be done eventually. This work was completed in 1953 and an organized program of activities became possible. Another improvement was made to the building when, on Memorial Day of 1953, a flag pole was dedicated on the front lawn of the Center. The pole was made possible by Hobart Manufacturing and the Golden Agers Club of the Lincoln Center. On April 13, 1958, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars presented the Center with a new flag.
The Lincoln Center play school, established in 1943, continued to operate through the fifties under the leadership of Mrs. Gwendolyn Lawton who served as instructor from 1951 until 1960. She replaced Mrs. Elda R. Carnes who resigned due to ill health. Mrs. Carnes later returned to work at the Center on a full time basis to activities other than the play school. The play school presented a number of annual Christmas programs, special plays and Tom Thumb weddings under Mrs. Lawton’s direction.
Throughout the 1950s, a number of social events became regular community activities at the Center. These monthly socials included: children’s game nights led by Mrs. Carnes and Gwen Lawton, teen-age game nights led by Mrs. Ann Peterson and Mrs. Carnes, and the adult game nights led by Mrs. Carnes. Weekly events included the Ladies Bridge Club and the Golden Agers Whisk Club. The Golden Agers were a group of men over the age of 65. Both the Ladies Bridge Club and the Golden Agers Club sponsored many other community socials for the financial gain of the Center. Among these socials were dinner, silver teas and indoor carnivals. The youth groups at the Center also assisted in a number of activities including popularity contests, civic, health, and other campaigns.
The Lincoln Center has always enjoyed friendly athletic relationships with other Centers, churches, and Y.M.C.A.s within a 60 mile radius of Troy. During the 1950s, various teams from the Center, including men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s softball, competed with teams from Bradfield Community Center from Lima, Ohio, Spring Street Y.M.C.A. out of Columbus, Ohio, Armco Center from Middletown, Ohio, Hamilton Fifth Street from Dayton, Ohio and Townsend Center from Richmond, Indiana, as well as amateur teams from Columbus, Dayton, Eaton, and Lima. Swimming instruction was also popular at the LCC in the fifties and was given by: Mr. Smith, owner of the Trojan Swimming Pool, Dick Carnes, Eugene Bradford and Frederick Fuller. The pool was open in the afternoons and evenings for recreational swimming except for a brief period in 1951 when it was closed for major repairs to the heating units. Several aquatic contests were held in the pool against teams from the Bradfield Center and the Fifth Street Y.M.C.A.
When the Center formally celebrated its 15th anniversary on November 2, 1954, it was an honor to have Joseph Pendergast, President and Executive Director of the National Recreational Association, as the featured speaker. To celebrate the event, a dinner was held at the First Baptist Church in Troy and was immediately followed by a program held in the Center’s auditorium. Mr. Lawton, director of the Lincoln Community Center, acted as Master of Ceremonies. In his remarks, Mr. Pendergast called the Lincoln Center outstanding and emphasized the importance of leisure time and its proper use.
1960's - Changing With the Times
The decade of 1959-1969 saw the end of one Director’s reign and the beginning of another. Mr. S. Henry Lawton served as Director until 1962. Mr. Lawton’s twenty year tenure at the Center saw many programs and activities being introduced or expanded. Although Mr. Lawton had a staff of four people, this in no way stopped the Center from being the “hub-bub” of activity. The people who served on the staff along with Mr. Lawton were: Mrs. Elda Carnes, secretary, Mr. Richard Carnes, Athletic Director, Mr. Jack McKinney, part-time custodian and Ms. Allene Harris, play school director. Some of the activities which were a part of the Center during Mr. Lawton’s Directorship were: a continuous game night program for children and adults, birthday parties for children, softball and baseball games in which many of the youngsters played on various teams representing the Center, a calisthenics program, a physical fitness program and a swimming program. During Mr. Lawton’s directorship, the Center was in constant use by various clubs and organizations within the Troy community. Mr. Lawton retired from the Center in 1962.
Upon Mr. Lawton’s retirement, Mr. Charles Sharett was given the job as Director. The Center was to undergo quite a few changes under the directorship of Mr. Sharett. One of the first changes made by Mr. Sharett was to change the heating system of the building. No longer was the Center to be heated by coal, but by the use of a furnace. A new electrical system was installed and new lights were supplied to the rear of the Center. In addition to these physical changes Mr. Sharett saw to it that the playground in the back became more useful. With the addition of the lighting in the backyard of the Center, nightly programs at the playground were initiated. The front of the Center also took on a new look; the old tree that once stood in front of the Center was taken out and the Center’s front was re-landscaped. New trees and flowers were planted all around the Center. This was a practice which Mr. Sharett continued to do every two years; planting new trees and more flowers, thus adding to the beauty of the Center’s front and sides.
Also under the guidance of Mr. Sharett, the Center started a preventative maintenance program which helped with the development of the “piggy back” system for the pool, more commonly known as a filtering system. This preventative maintenance program helped to curtail many of the major physical problems which otherwise might have gone unnoticed. Other major changes to the Center physically were the painting of the building every three or four years, installation of new paneling, carpeting and air conditioning, and a new office for the secretary; at one time the Director and secretary shared the same office. Finally, the glass in the front of the Center was changed. In addition to all the physical changes that occurred during Mr. Sharett’s term of office, new programs and activities were started and others were upgraded. Some of these activities included assistance to the Riverside school physical fitness program and the Troy City Schools Physical Education Department which would bus students in to use the Center’s pool for swimming lessons. Mr. Sharett also worked closely with the Troy City Schools by utilizing students as tutors, and helping students find jobs and receive scholarships for their college education. Two of the tutoring programs which were begun at the Center won national recognition in 1968 and 1969. Mr. Sharett also saw the installation of a weight room by renovating one of the old rooms downstairs. New arts and crafts classes were also introduced as Mr. Sharett had a strong background in this area.
The basic theme of the Center was social, stressing ideas with which to help the black professional and the black community as a whole. The Center also became the recipient of the Community Leadership Award for the programs at the Center during Mr. Sharett’s directorship. Mr. Sharett also sent out a quarterly newsletter about the Center and about events in the surrounding community with which the Center was an integral part. In this newsletter were the goals and philosophies of the Center. Later, during his term of office, Mr. Sharett sent the newsletter out once every six months. All of these changes and innovations helped Mr. Sharett further his own life goals. When he left his job as Director of the Center he received various job offers which were complimentary to him as the outgoing director of LCC. He left his position as Director of the Center to become Director of Recreation in Troy in 1971.
1970's - Making More Things Better
The 1970s were dedicated to developing physical programs and to improving the building and making it more flexible. Alphas “Al” Wicker was named Director in July, 1971, replacing Charles Sharett. Mr. Wicker made it his goal for the Center to appeal to a “broad range of interests for individuals of any age”. The Center continued such programs as basketball and swimming, as well as its sponsorship of the preschool program. The preschool program provided nursery school-aged children with: painting, writing their names, group play, and story hour and ran daily from 8am to noon. During Mr. Wicker’s tenure the Center also branched out into areas such as: arts and craft classes, card club for people age 30 and up, cooking and sewing classes during the summer, talent shows and sponsorship of golf clinics and softball teams.
In 1976, the Center sponsored a series of Black History in America lectures at the Troy-Miami County Public Library in honor of the Bicentennial. One year before that, the Center purchased a jukebox and converted its kitchen to a “teen” area to accommodate the demand for a gathering and snack place for young adults. Mr. Wicker emphasized that programs were scheduled to suit the needs of the people who used the Center. Also at this time, more people were becoming better aware of the health benefits of exercise and as a result, the ground floor of the Center was remodeled and equipped with a piece of equipment known as a “universal gym”. In conjunction with the pool, this piece of equipment enabled the Center to function as a fitness spa. The universal gym allowed twelve people to use this piece of equipment simultaneously, with no waiting. With the expanded “spa” area and pool time for swimming, the gym was also allotted time for jogging. Classes for men, women, boys and girls, which began in the fall, were scheduled to keep all members working out. Trojans who wanted and needed exercise, but who couldn’t afford the cost of a health spa, could take advantage of this new opportunity. Complete with showers in the pool area, there was even a special noon hour class for businessmen as well as club and organization time.
While Mr. Wicker felt that Lincoln Community Center emphasized a “physical” program, it also rewarded leadership and fellowship qualities with its annual Fellowship Award, given to the graduating high school senior involved in Center activities who exemplified friendship and compassion. And in the Girl’s Club, organized in 1977 under the direction of Vickie Evans, members were required to participate in community service. The club’s activities included aid to needy families and broadening experiences such as a trip to a major city, like New York or Atlanta, each year, if possible.
In 1978, a new hot water heating system was installed to replace the aging steam boiler in the building. Besides offering more dependable heat and lowering heating bills, the new system could be shut down for the summer since it was augmented by a separate $3000 heating unit for the swimming pool. Shutting down the system in the summer drastically cut the cost of pool operations. During the early 1970s, an estimated 66,000 people used the Center each year, but the frigid weather of 1977 and 1978 cut attendance and the Center itself had to shut down for three weeks in 1977. Dayton Power & Light told the LCC and many other Troy institutions that they were over their allotment of natural gas. The new heating system and added insulation were a hopeful answer to remedy the problems brought on by the “energy crunch”. During the 1970s, the Center truly became a community gathering place, with its mix of sports and programs to attract people of all ages and ethnicities.
1980's - A Breath of Fresh Air:
As predecessor to the director Charles Sharrett, Mr. Wicker followed in the steps of the former director by staying true to and expanding on the centers activities.
Recreational, educational and social programs continued to keep the center in the mainstream of community and provide and hope for Troy's youth. The center has always provided opportunities for all ages, so that "young and old have an opportunity to find the best and most satisfying use of leisure time."
The 1980's saw for the center the continuation of the Easter Egg Hunt which have been a long standing center tradition, we also saw the building of the center's relationship with Riverside which allowed them to utilize the pool for their aquatic program. A universal gym was installed and the center started a traveling basketball team known as the LCC Tigers which traveled to places like Lima, Dayton, etc. to play. The center continued Black History month programs sponsored by Time Warner Cable and various other corporations.
The longtime Lincoln Center employee Mr. Harold Hughes started a boys mentoring program called Hughes Connection and Kids Zone. We also participated in the Troy Strawberry Festival serving up deep fried candy bars which were a huge success.
1990's - Welcome to the New Age:
For the 90's as the nation was preparing for 1999 and the end of the world, The Lincoln Community Center continued with the successful mentoring programs using basketball as a major teacher for life lessons created by the centers own Mr. Hughes, these programs were called Hughes Connection and Kid Zone. Lincoln Community Center had the addition of the computer lab which was used for tutoring and research. Loretta Phillips was the centers swimming instructor as the center was growing and renovating and expanding. The center had a 90's block party organized by the Vickie Evans and Mr. Wicker, and we created a Men's basketball 3 on 3 tournament that was held outside in the back of the center.
2000's - Changing of The Guard:
The 2000's saw the retirement of longtime director Alphas Wicker and the appointment of new director Isaiah Williams. Isaiah developed new programs such as basketball camps, and the M.Dub Classic- to honor the life of Mike Williams. The Lincoln Community Center also continued with the center's traditional Easter Egg Hunt. In 2007 ITW provided a $248,000 dollar grant to renovate the gymnasium and locker rooms. The LCC employees Harold Hughes and son Jeremy Hughes continued making the long time youth basketball programs success. With 2009 our preschool program was dissolved due to funding and the building not being up to code. In 2010 agrant from the Troy Foundation saved the 70 year old pool and provided new pumps and filtration systems for the dying pool facility. Senior citizen's continued to utilize facility with pickle ball and water aerobics. Joann Moore directed the preschool enrichment program upstairs for ages pre-k through youth. Through all the directors the center was offered leadership and support, one of the Lincoln Community Centers biggest supporters during this time period has been the city of Troy and our own Mayor Beamish.
2010's - A Multicultural Community Center is Born
Under the leadership of the new Executive Director, Shane K. Carter, the Lincoln Center is vibrant and alive offering more than forty-two programs for people of all ages year round. Shane took over the position in September 2011 and has instilled life and vision to the LCC. Programs consist of: youth basketball leagues, after school tutoring, job readiness program, senior aquatics classes, karate, cheerleading, fine arts programs and singing lessons. Under the tenure of Mr. Carter, the Center has undergone a complete face lift including building renovations to the foyer, main office, weight room and basement as well as the addition of a full service kitchen and computer lab. Upon his hiring, Mr. Carter implemented a new mission statement: “To provide a facility for the residents of Troy and the vicinity, to engage in educational, social, cultural and recreational activities. The Center provides opportunities for people of all ages to participate in a wide range of programs that educate and stimulate the public, enhance self-confidence, and promote mental and physical health.” The Center averaged 2,800 visitors a month in 2014 and with newly created programs is expecting a spike in attendance for 2014. The back bone of LCC programs has been the After School Tutoring program which caters to kids in the Troy City School System grades K to 12. Through a donation from the Acorn Society and an anonymous donor the center purchased a 12 passenger van to transport the children from school to the center daily. The van is also used for educational field trips and sporting events.
The staff of the Lincoln Center has expanded vastly with the large number of programs offered. Pool Operator; Peppy Cochran has done an excellent job maintaining the pool and providing open swim and swim lessons for all ages.
Administrative Assistant; Nicole K. Burton participated and facilitated numerous oral presentations at Back to School Fairs, United Way Agency Fairs, and Future Begins Today programs. Nicole also does a great job with monthly newsletter, updating the Facebook, and managing the website. Nicole is asked to handle multiple tasks such as: facilitate the singing class, fill in for coaches, educational coordinators or whatever is needed. She handles the pool membership data base and keeps track of inventory, time sheets, and scheduling events for the LCC as well as the Executive Director. To say the least she is our glue and we are so thankful to have her. Nicole also assists in grant writing and just recently received a Technology Grant from the Miami County Foundation in the amount of $ 940.00 to purchase a computer and projector. Nicole has great knowledge of the resources and services offered in the community and does a great job referring our guests that have needs to organizations that can assist them. Nicole is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Troy.
Building Supervisors; Robin Lucas (19 years), Harold Hughes (24 years) and Daryl Chavis (48 years) do a great job managing the facility and programs in the afternoon and evening hours. They also take on multiple roles in covering for staff when needed and have done a great job handling the increase in building attendance throughout the year. Do to their knowledge and experience with our organization all three of these employees provide great insight and wisdom in decision making and building layout, flow and signage.
Educational Coordinators; Mark Scott, John Taylor, Traci Mc Donald, Jeremy Hughes and Andy Luring have done an exceptional job with our After School Enrichment Program. All of these employees bring worthy credentials and experience to there positions. Their work speaks for itself, we had so many kids failing classes and barely getting by and now we receive daily updates from teachers as well as test and quiz scores that show exceptional work. All coordinators have gotten their students to buy in to their studies and it has provided improvement in their behavior, communication skills and self esteem. With this group we have more than 60+ years of teaching experience on staff.
With today’s economy, the Lincoln Center takes pride in being a free facility with minimal to no charge for programs, events and activities. How will the LCC continue to grow with space being a problem every day? Parking is a problem Monday through Saturday with all the programming and events going on. Also, every room in the facility is being utilized to its maximum capacity. Due to the new programs, the staff has doubled in size and the budget is always increasing. The all purpose room on the second floor is used as for a classroom, dancing studios, Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, Men’s Think Tanks, afterschool tutoring, GED classes and many other programs. Mr. Carter believes, “The Lincoln Community Center is needed as much as any other organization in the City of Troy. It provides hope for so many underprivileged youth and is utilized by all walks of life, ages young to old. We are excited about getting started with an expansion plan to provide more space and opportunity for the community
Without the Lincoln Center where would everyone go?”