History Lesson



The YMCA is founded by Sir George Williams in London, England.  A dry goods clerk, the first programs were a reading room, Bible study and a resource for acquiring room and board.


The first YMCAs are established in North America in Boston, Massachusetts and Montréal , Quebec.


YMCA is founded in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Detroit.


  • YMCA of Akron, Ohio is founded by Judge Jacob Kohler, a prosecuting attorney and later involved in the founding of Akron Paint and Varnish. 
  • The first building was a reading room in the Mathews Block on South Howard St. 
  • The Y opened with 120 members and a $200.00 annual budget.


  • YMCA moves to the Academy of Music Building, later called the Everett Building at the corner of Main and Market Streets.
  • First Akron Y General Secretary, J. Y. Leming is hired.


First adult evening school in Akron is organized by the YMCA.


Akron YMCA General Secretary, James N. Gunn was hired.


The game of basketball is invented by pastor and YMCA training school instructor, James Naismith at the YMCA Training School – now Springfield College – in Springfield Massachusetts.


  • The YMCA of Akron, Ohio, Incorporated is officially incorporated in the State of Ohio.
  • Richard G. Hooper became General Secretary.


Opened in early 1906 at a cost of $125,000, a five story building that had a gymnasium, indoor swimming bath, a dining room, auditorium, classrooms, clubrooms for games and reading, offices and a dormitory was built at the corner of State and Main Streets in Akron.


  • The Medina County YMCA is founded.  Their camp is called Camp Craig in Hinkley, Ohio.
  • Akron Y Camping Program is started with Gypsy Hikes to Camp Kettle near Coshocton, Ohio.


Under leadership of Andrew Noah, the Y purchased land in Green Township for a camp.  Situated on East Reservoir, it was named Camp Mudjikiwis.


Akron Community Boys Department is founded.


  • Education Committee of the YMCA offers programs to improve literacy.
  • The Perkins St. Branch, a predecessor to the Akron Urban League, is founded to serve African-Americans relocating to Akron.
  • The first Boy Scout troop in Akron is formed under the auspices of the YMCA.


Youth outreach programs in East and South Akron are started.


The South Akron Y, now the Firestone Park Y, is started above a hardware store on Aster Ave.


The Barberton Y is founded.


John A. VanDis becomes General Secretary and leads the Y through a period of great growth before joining the staff of the National Council of YMCAs.


YMCA offices are moved to 122 W. Bowery St.  Other activities take place in schools and churches while a new building is constructed.  The old Y building is torn down to make way for the Mayflower Hotel.


Replacing Camp Mudjikiwis, Camp Y-Noah is founded on 250 acres in Green Township.


  • The 15 story Central YMCA, the largest of its kind in the country with 220 dorm rooms, a pool, gyms, bowling lanes, a restaurant, barber shop and dry cleaning shop is constructed at 80 W. Center St.
  • 75,000 visitors inspect the new Central YMCA building at Bowery, Center and Water Streets.  Completed at a cost of $1.26 million, it is the tallest Y building in Ohio.
  • Membership was 5481.


The first All-American Soap Box Derby champs are housed at Camp Y-Noah.


Programs are organized in West Akron.  Membership was 9,123.


John L. Prosser is named General Secretary of the Akron YMCA and serves until 1951.


Various outposts of the YMCA are established in North Hill, Kenmore and East Akron.  Henry Kohl is the first Y secretary who directs program development.


  • The Glendale YMCA is started to serve African American men.
  • E. Bruce Tate is named Executive Secretary of the Glendale Y.


The Cuyahoga Falls Branch YMCA is established after five years as an outreach center in a house at the corner of Broad Blvd. and 6th Street.


The East Akron and Firestone Park branches are built on property donated by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.  P. W. Litchfield and Raymond Firestone lay the respective cornerstones.


The Y purchases a 3.5 acre tract on Lawton St. for a West Akron YMCA and operated until the late 1970s with a gym, handball courts and meeting rooms.


The Tallmadge YMCA/YWCA is opened on East Ave. near Tallmadge Circle.


The Western Reserve Branch is established on 11 acres of property near the intersection of Fishcreek and Rt. 59.


The Longwood Branch is established on 10 acres of property donated by Macedonia Mayor, Colonel Frew Long.


William A. Markell is named General Director and serves until 1975.


  • YMCA’s first Child Care Center, Hope Child Care Center is opened as a collaboration with the Florence Crittenden Home, First Presbyterian Church, the United Way and the YMCA.
  • The YMCA Phoenix Alternative School is started by Y volunteers Senator Oliver Ocasek and Juvenile Court Judge William Kannell.
  • The YMCA of the USA Values Project is initiated by the YMCA of Akron, Ohio.


Fred F. Fuerst is named General Director of the Akron YMCA and serves until 1991.


  • In an effort to streamline operations, the Y sells some property.  Residential property behind Firestone Park, the West Akron Y, property in NW Akron and Stow were sold.
  • The Heritage Club is founded with 56 members who have included the Y in their estate plan.


The Central YMCA is closed as part of a $4.6 million renovation and improvement project and the administrative offices move to the Firestone Park YMCA for six years while renovation of the Central Y building takes place.


YMCA & YWCA conclude negotiations to split shared buildings with the YMCA taking control of the Cuyahoga Falls Y and the YWCA operating the Tallmadge Y building.


The Firestone Equestrian Center, complete with a barn, box stalls and tack room is completed at Camp Y-Noah.


  • The Central Y re-opens as the Canal Square YMCA.  The dorm rooms are converted to 55 apartments, 13,000 square feet of commercial space and a completely renovated YMCA space.  It qualifies for the National Register of Historic Spaces.
  • The Medina Y ceases operations and the service area is assigned to the Akron association, operating programs from an office building just off the square in the City of Medina.
  • YMCA Phoenix School receives a charter as a State of Ohio certified SBH School.


Douglas R. Kohl is hired as General Director and then is appointed President/CEO.

  • The YMCA conducts an Endowment Development Campaign and adds over $250,000 to the fund, including a lead gift from the GAR Foundation.


  • The Leadership Development Center and High Ropes Course is opened at Camp Y-Noah with lead gifts from GenCorp, The GAR Foundation and the Knight Foundation.
  • The YMCA Phoenix School moves from Glendale Ave. to the East Akron YMCA.
  • YMCA membership is 2,000 units (about 4,200 members).


  • The Longwood YMCA builds a 12,000 square foot building that includes a gym and classrooms at the Shepard Rd. property for $500,000.
  • The Falls YMCA expands programs to the Schnee Elementary School in order to serve growing gymnastics, childcare, day camp and other youth programs.
  • The YMCA Endowment Foundation is incorporated.  First chairman is David Vernon.
  • Medina YMCA moves from office space to Weymouth Elementary School on Remsen Rd.


The YMCA begins a partnership with the Akron Rotary Camp for Children With Special Needs on Rex Lake in Akron, operating programs at this camp that has been owned by the Rotary Club of Akron since 1923.


38 acres of property on S. R. 59 in Ravenna Twp. is donated by Douglas McGee to the Y for the benefit of starting a Y in Portage County.


  • Camp Y-Noah receives $1.2 million in improvements including a new dining hall, indoor riding arena and cabin improvements. 
  • Improvements to fitness & childcare are made to the Canal Square YMCA. The YMCA Administrative Offices move from Canal Square to 209 S. Main St.


The Cuyahoga Falls YMCA completes $2.5 million in improvements that include a new gymnastics center, wellness center and classrooms.  Schnee School programs are reunited at the Broad Blvd. location.  The Y is renamed the Riverfront YMCA.


The $4.7 million Green YMCA is opened in August 2000, a collaboration with Summa Health System.


  • A $1.8 million expansion of the Green YMCA is completed.
  • YMCA membership stands at 8,000 units, approximately 18,000 men, women and children.


The Lake Anna YMCA opens in November, a collaboration with the Barberton Community Foundation, the City of Barberton, Barberton Citizen’s Hospital and the YMCA.  The project is completed for $9.0 million.


The $11.0 million University Park YMCA opens to the public in January.  Lead gifts by Summa Health Systems and the Knight Foundation are key to this project.


  • The Wadsworth YMCA opens.  This project is a 5 partner collaboration including the YMCA, Wadsworth Public Schools, the City of Wadsworth, Summa Health System and the Wadsworth Library.
  • Membership tops 18,000 membership units (36,000 men, women and children).


Jill Kolesar is hired as President/CEO.