Our History

The Y is the leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community by connecting all people to their potential, purpose and each other. 


Working locally since 1908, we focus on empowering young people, improving health and well-being, and inspiring action in and across communities.

Our rich history began when George Williams founded the YMCA in 1844. Here’s a snapshot of our many successes over the decades on behalf of the individuals and communities we are privileged to serve.

Watch: History of YMCA Membership

Service to the First Coast

Notable Moments in Our History on the First Coast

1870

Records show the first YMCA in Jacksonville originated in 1870 with J.M. Baker as president. The history of that organization was lost after 1876 and by 1900, there was no longer a Y in Jacksonville.

1908

On February 20, 1908, YUSA approves charter for the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast. A seven-story YMCA opens at the corner of Laura and Duval Streets with a membership of 12 men. Designed by famed architect Henry John Klutho, the Y was framed entirely of reinforced concrete and eventually featured an indoor running track suspended over the gymnasium by cantilevered concrete beams.

1909

1941

  • Jacksonville YMCA reopens after its suspension during the Great Depression

1948

1955

  • Opening of YMCA in Riverside (later to be renamed the Claude J. Yates Family YMCA)
  • Construction begins on swimming pool at YMCA in Riverside

1957

  • Membership Drive exceeds goal with 1,358 members
  • Dedication of Camp Immokalee Dining Hall, a gift from the Meninak Club of Jacksonville
  • YMCA Day Camp Opens

1958

  • YMCA launches youth aquatics program
  • YMCA expands and provides new facilities in Arlington and St. Johns County

1959

  • Jacksonville Mayor Haydon Burns received an honorary membership to the YMCA
  • YMCA Camp receives $10,000 from Jacksonville Rotary Club to build Camp Immokalee Infirmary
  • YMCA, with the Red Cross, begin teaching lifesaving classes

1962

  • YMCA is 100 years old in America

1964

  • Delta Hi-Y Founds Library as a service project

1965

  • Drown-proofing program begins at the YMCA
  • YMCA begins new membership campaign that strengthens physical, moral and spiritual values

1966

  • YMCA offers first physical fitness tests to assess members exercise needs

1968

  • YMCA desegregates facilities (Franklin D. Wilson initiated the movement)

1969

  • Opening of new “Executive Health Club” with sauna and steam room at YMCA Riverside YMCA

1971

  • YMCA permits women to join as members (Mrs. Sutton, secretary to the President, was the first female member)

1974

  • YMCA in Riverside opens a new running track

1987

  • First presence in Nassau County with after-school, day camp and youth soccer; operations were run out of City Recreation Department building

1988

  • The Clay County YMCA (Dye Clay Family YMCA) opens on Moody Road in Orange Park; later renamed with YMCA President Bob Dye retired after 26 years of service to our association
  • YMCA of Florida’s First Coast merged with the existing St. Augustine YMCA making it a part of the Association.

1995

2000

  • Broke ground on the Dye Clay Family YMCA Daystar building

2004

2008

  • Brooks Family YMCA opens after 60,000 square foot building donated by Brooks Rehabilitation

2009

2016

WATCH: Building a Better Us

2017

2019

2020

2020

Read more about Our Impact in Northeast Florida.