LIMA — The beginning of a written history on Bradfield Community Center is plain. In 1933, a group formed to promote recreation and social opportunities for black citizens “who otherwise would have no access to programs and activities that encouraged personal development and growth.”
The center celebrates its 75th anniversary today with a jubilee from noon to 6 p.m. at the facility at Collett Street and North Shore Drive. The day will mark a vibrant history and vital place in the community and celebrate the inclusive, much used, much needed place it remains today.
The community uses the center for gathering, educational programing such as reading and computers, recreation, job training, summer and after-school programs for youth. Many spaces in the building can also be rented.
“It’s an inclusive organization that’s fulfilling the dreams of its founders and current members,” said Jana Williamson, a Bradfield Center board member. “It’s for the entire Lima community. As we move forward, the next 75 years will be focused on health, education and youth development.”
The facility has had 15 directors since its inception, but is without one now. The center’s board had anticipated having a director hired by this spring, but now it plans to advertise soon for an interim director, Williamson said.
The center’s Finance Committee is working on a budget now, Williamson said, and the board anticipates hiring an interim director in the next 60 to 90 days.
The board will also give building tours and hold a membership drive today, Williamson said, to reacquaint people with the facility. The board’s goal is to get another 100 members today.
The center’s history dates back to 1933, when the Lima group began to provide programming for Lima’s black residents. An early program at Central High School later moved to a recreation center on South Main Street and included educational classes and a nursery school. A recreation council formed in 1934 and organized a playground at a lot west of Fourth Street Baptist Church. In 1936, the group became the Citizens Recreation Council.
On July 3, 1938, the Bradfield Community Association formed. The group selected as its namesake Dr. J.C. Bradfield, a Lima physician and World War I veteran who was on the staff of both St. Rita’s Medical Center and Lima Memorial Health System. Bradfield died at the age of 47 in 1936, from complications of pneumonia contracted from a patient he treated.
The center’s original location at 321 S. West St. soon was overcrowded and inadequate, and the association secured donations from local businesses and industry for a new space. As remodeling was nearly complete in a building at Pierce and Elm streets, a fire destroyed it. In 1949, through many efforts in the public and private sectors, Bradfield Community Center opened and still operates there. In 1950, a gift from the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks made possible in 1950 a swimming pool, which has since been filled in. In 1995, the association conducted a capital campaign for an expansion that included more meeting and classroom space.
The center is a place that’s been with many in the community for decades. Williamson said she has many fond memories of Bradfield.
“My husband went to the original one on South West Street,” Williamson said. “I can remember being in a pageant here. I wasn’t Miss America, but I did get Miss Bradfield.”