History

As one of Greater Cincinnati’s leading nonprofits, committed to helping people and our community succeed, our contributions are both far-reaching and intimate from influencing our culture during times of profound social change to the individual support we provide an adult learning to read. By nurturing the potential of every child and teen, improving community health and well-being, and supporting and serving our neighbors, the Y ensures that everyone has the opportunity to become healthier, more confident, connected and secure.

1800s

1853 The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati became affiliated with the Y movement.  In its early days, the Cincinnati Y was a strong association that welcomed individuals to meeting and lounge rooms, and a library.

1856 The Cincinnati German branch of the Y was organized on West Court Street offering the nationís first-recorded English as a Second Language course for German immigrants.

1861 A Cincinnati delegation helped to organize the U.S. Christian Commission that served soldiers and sailors during the Civil War.  Hot meals were provided at camps and coffee on battlefields.  The Christian Commission, as it was called, was the USO of that war.

1865 The Cincinnati organization formally adopted the name, the Young Menís Christian Association.  A hall was leased for a reading room.  Coffee and reading rooms then began springing up in neighborhoods across Cincinnati, and food was prepared for working men and Ohio River men.  (note: A big bowl of soup and a three-ounce loaf of bread sold for five cents; a cup of coffee and a plate of crackers sold for five cents)  Relief projects were also launched to help the homeless and hungry.

1866 Educational classes are started, ultimately creating the Salmon P. Chase College in 1943.  Most classes in the early days were offered in the evening offering courses in automotive repairs, motion picture projecting, salesmanship, and cartooning.  The School of Law was established there in 1893 and became the first evening law school founded in the United States.

1868 In cooperation with city council, the Y provided growing services to needy individuals in the community.  The Stranger’s Home offered baths, meals, a place to sleep and have clothing repaired.  Religious services were also held.

1870 The Y is incorporated and the major emphasis shifts to the improvement of the physical, spiritual, moral, and social condition of young men.  To become a member, men were required to have good standing in a Protestant Evangelical Church.

1874 The Cincinnati YMCA acquired the title for its first home, the five story Heyl House, located at the southeast corner of Sixth and Elm Streets.

1890 The Cincinnati Y opens its first branch to serve railroad men at Third and Werk Streets.  A second Railroad branch opened two years later in grand Central Station at Third and John Streets.  Others were added later, furnishing dormitory rooms, bathrooms, Bible classes, and emergency medical care.  These operated through 1925.

1900-1919

1910 The Board of Directors began considering a branch for Negroes.  The Ninth Street Branch opened its doors at Seventh and Plum Streets in 1913.

1911 Extension work began on youth clubs in schools and churches

1913 The Ninth Street Branch opened its doors at Seventh and Plum Streets in Cincinnati.  This branch was designed to serve African Americans, and was at capacity from the beginning.  Many agencies utilized this structure over the years, including the Negro Welfare Division of the Council of Social Agencies, later known as the Urban League.  World Heavyweight boxing champion Ezzard Charles attended the branch from the time he was 10-years-old.

1914 The Elmwood-St. Bernard Branch opened its doors to provide services to industrial workers in the Mill creek valley region.  The facility, also known as the Lockland YMCA was part of the community extension work of the Cincinnati YMCA.

 

1915 The University Branch opens its doors on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.  An Army Hut was set up on the site to serve as a military training location during WWI.  During WWII the University Y again became an Army Service Center providing social, recreational, and religious activities for men in training.

1917 Central Parkway branch was built.  Former President William Howard Taft delivered the address as the cornerstone was laid.  The Central Parkway Y, in its early days, offered dormitory living, a cafeteria, billiard tables, bowling alleys and a barber shop.  This branch also was home to championship basketball, track, and swimming teams.

1920-1939

1920 The Y purchased 26 acres of land near California, Kentucky to build Camp Tenskowatawa, later renamed Camp Meacham, in memory of the son of YMCA President D.B. Meacham.  His son died as a result of his service in WWI.  The County Work Branch, later designated as the Town and Country branch, opened to serve outlying communities offering community-based services.

1925 The Columbia Parkway branch opened its doors on Eastern Avenue.  It moved in 1937 to Delta and Columbia Parkway.  In 1950, a remodeled branch was opened that featured a boysí social room and a gymnasium.  The facility was well known for its Boysí Work Program that worked to engage underprivileged youth and keep them away from gangs.

1927 The Northeastern (Norwood) branch is established as a joint project between the YMCA and the YWCA.  Later, the facility was renamed the Richard E. Linder YMCA, named in honor of corporate leader and philanthropist Richard Lindner, former Board President and Chairman of the Thriftway supermarket chain. Mr. Lindner’s business career started when he was in junior high school, working with his parents, brothers, and sister in their father’s business delivering bottled milk to homes. This business developed into milk & ice cream manufacturing and retail stores known as United Dairy Farmers.

1928 The Y purchased Camp Washington Simms, a 22 acre tract of land on the Little Miami River near Milford.  Each summer, 350 boys attended the camp that featured overnight cottages, an assembly hall, swimming pool, and outdoor chapel.  Most of the young mad had some part of their camping fee donated.

1928 Willard L. Wade, leader of the Covington, KY YMCA was looking for a way to provide a positive summer experience for the young people of Greater Cincinnati. H e shared his vision with United States Senator Richard P. Ernst, who donated funds for the first 100 acres of Camp Ernst located in Burlington, KY.  Today, two swimming pools, a 28 horse ranch, 40 cabins and other buildings accommodate more than 400 boys and girls ages 5-15 each week of summer camp, in addition to seasonal family camp sessions and weekend events throughout the school year.

1930 The Eastern Hills Branch (Williams YMCA) opened.  The name officially changed to the Williams YMCA is 1940, in honor of the Williams family whose home had once occupied the McMillan Street site.

1939 Olivia Gamble and her sister Maud Nippert gave the YMCA use of the Western Hills Tennis Club..later donating the property.  In the early days of what is now the Gamble-Nippert YMCA, located at 3159 Montana Avenue, riflery was a popular sport at the Y; they got to practice at the nearby indoor rifle range.

1940-1979

1941 Central Parkway served as a YMCA-USO center during WWII.  Anyone in the military was invited to enjoy the privileges of membership in all branches of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County YMCA.

1944 The Walnut Hills branch (Melrose) opened.  Located at 2840 Melrose Avenue, the branch immediately made an appeal for the entire family offering activities for all ages, including table tennis, and opportunities to perform with a choral group.

1949 The Northeastern branch opened on Sherman Avenue in Norwood.  Features included a large gym, three lounges (including one for children), a photography darkroom, and a snack bar.  The Norwood site is now known as the Richard E. Lindner YMCA.

1963 The first suburban branch, Powel Crosley, Jr. branch opened.

 

1966 The Gamble Nippert Family branch is built.

1968 The Blue Ash family branch is built

1972 The M. E. Lyons branch opens.

1979 The YMCA Black Achievers Program is established.  The program is one of the regionís largest programs of its kind, partnering with area organizations and adult role models to inspire and encourage teens of color to pursue post-graduate work, establish careers, and give back to a community that helped guide them on their journey.

 

1980-1999

1981 The first off-site child care center, Anderson Place Child Care Center opens.

1987 The YMCA of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and the YMCA of Northern Kentucky merge to create the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati.

1991 The Clermont County YMCA merges with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati

1993 The Clippard YMCA branch opens.

1999 The Y embarks on a $30 million Capital Campaign and the Child Development Services branch is formed.

2000-Present Day

2004 The R.C. Durr Branch in Burlington opens.

2006 The Carl H. Lindner Branch opens.  Community Learning Centers are coordinated under  YMCA management.

2009 For the love of Camp Ernst capital campaign is launched to refresh, update, and build facilities at the YMCA overnight camp, one of the largest and most popular in the region.  Camp Ernst welcomes over 3,000 children and teens to camp each year.

2010 The YMCA embarks on the YMCA Camp Ernst Capital Campaign. The Y revitalizes its brand and officially begins referring to itself as the Y. The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is launched in Cincinnati. Thanks to the generosity of capital donors, a new pool and twisty slide opens at YMCA Camp Ernst, along with new lodging for teen campers, and a new horse barn.

2014 The Y acquires ownership of Play Time childhood education center expanding the Y commitment to provide quality, star-rated programs and services to children and families.

2016  The Central Parkway YMCA, opened in 1917, reopens after a complete renovation.

YMCA of Greater Cincinnati