George Williams College

Our History

George Williams College of Aurora University is named for Sir George Williams, the Englishman who founded the YMCA in 1844. The college was established in 1884 to prepare young men to serve in the YMCA. Located on the quiet shores of Geneva Lake, the site became a summer retreat and training institute for YMCA workers and a source of inspiration, recreation, education and renewal.

Throughout the years, guests have visited the campus for retreats, family reunions, or just a day of swimming in the beautiful spring-fed waters of Geneva Lake. The Conference Center at George Williams College continues to build on the traditions established on campus—a place where people come together to meet, reflect, learn and grow.

Historic Photo

Of Special Historial Interest:

Mabel Cratty

This beautiful porch-encircled building was designed by Emery Stanford Hall with the horizontal board and batten motif typical of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie school designs. It was built in 1926 as “The Women’s Building” and renamed in 1930 for Mabel Cratty, the first general secretary of the YWCA, in recognition of the 1886 adoption of the national YWCA bylaws on the George Williams College campus. A rededication ceremony took place in 1937 featuring reflections offered by Margaret Mead. The building was renovated in 2012, an effort which was celebrated by the Wisconsin chapter of the American Institute of Architects with an Award of Merit.

Sir George Williams Memorial Room

Located in the Beasley Campus Center, this room is an exact replica of the room where the Young Men's Christian Association was originally organized in London, England. The original room in London was preserved as an international shrine until destroyed in 1944 by a World War II bombing. Duplicates of the original furniture, the room furnishings, including the table, chairs, and fireplace grating were custom built in England.

Weidensall Administration Building

This building was constructed in 1910 and is named after Robert Weidensall, one of the three founders of this campus. The main entrance faces the lake, because in those days, people arrived by boat, and this was the first building to greet them. Today it is used as the registration area for arriving guests.

Lewis Hall

Lewis Hall was built in 1898 and designed by Emery Stanford Hall. This historic building served as the main dining facility for the campus until the completion of the Beasley Campus Center in 2007. It is dedicated to William Lewis, a YMCA secretary and one of the three founders of the George Williams College campus. Today the building is used for group activities and events.

For more information on the grounds and buildings, ask for a Walking Tour guide when checking in.