John Samuel Oram would have known the oil tycoon John D Rockefeller through their mutual interest in the YMCA movement. In the late 1870s the agency had shifted away from reformation and toward character development, establishing educational and physical-culture programs (1881), a Juniors Dept. (1887), and equipping the city’s first supervised playground (1900).
With funding for new buildings and programmes by men such as Rockefeller the organisation must have been very vibrant when James Henry Oram began working there. He started as a janitor and rose to be custodian of the YMCA building on the intersection of Prospect, Huron & Eire (to become E 9th St in 1906). Photographs of the excellent building and facilities under his day to day care can be seen at this link or below at the bottom of this page as a slideshow.
The classes that were held in the building were the embryonic beginnings of Cleveland State University. In 1912 a new YMCA Central Building, still standing in 2012, was built at the intersection of Prospect Ave. and E 22nd St. In 1921 the educational work was formally organized into the Cleveland School of Technology of the YMCA, later renamed Fenn College until, in 1965 the state assumed its operations establishing the Cleveland State University.
Slideshow of c1889 photos of the YMCA at Prospect and Erie obtained from: http://cplorg.cdmhost.com/cdm/
Sources: Photographs and information taken from
The Cleveland Memory Project http://www.clevelandmemory.org/ and
The Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery http://cplorg.cdmhost.com/cdm/ and
The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History http://ech.cwru.edu/