History of the New Rochelle YMCA, Inc.

On January 15, 1899 a group of New Rochelleans gathered at 56 Woodland Ave. in New Rochelle to discuss the possibility of creating a YMCA. Among these pioneers of the early YMCA movement were WK Palmer, Irving R. Todd, Lincoln G. Backus, Myron A. Lackmen, Samuel W. Dassler, Charles H. Scott along with the first executive director Howard. R. Ware and who would become the first elected president and would serve the YMCA for thirty nine years before retiring. On February 3, 1899 the New Rochelle YMCA received its article of incorporation.

The original home of the Y was located at 480-482 Main Street where a building committee was established to create a permanent home. Twenty-six years later the YMCA purchased the Hendricks property at the corner of Division St. and Burling Lane (now Memorial Highway) and began raising money to build a new site. On October 29, 1929 the stock market crashed and our country headed towards the great economic depression. Only $400,000 of the $700,000 needed to construct the new building was raised. With the building only partially completed and no new fundraising in sight, Howard Ware demonstrated his devotion to the mission and purchased the Y’s assets at a public auction and resold them back to the Y. With the commitment and dedication of the YMCA’s board and executive staff the new building was completed and opened in 1931.

Although the early Y pioneers created the organization to promote a healthy mind and body, the Y’s main mission was to promote Christian values. A true charitable organization, the Y was involved with the soldiers at Fort Slocum during both world wars, providing them with room and board while on leave from their base, as well as providing room for the American Red Cross. Several local community organizations used the Y facility as meeting halls for their respective groups. Over the years the Y provided many programs for the New Rochelle community, with the pool being the most popular feature and by1939 had a membership of over 2,200 people.

Like many YMCA’s the New Rochelle YMCA has a rich history in diversity.

  • 1915 Howard Ware’s wife Ella started one of the first Women’s Auxiliary units.
  • 1926 a new position was created and Barbara Viafora was named Executive Secretary in charge of woman and girls
  • 1956 through a non-profit group called Music for Rehabilitation, a musical quartet group named the Red-Hot Licks made up of a group of physically handicap young people called the NR YMCA its home.
  • 1966 723 girls between ages eight to eighteen were members

In the 1980’s, facing challenging economic times and a shifting membership base, the YMCA sold the property on Memorial Boulevard and moved into its current home on 50 Weyman Avenue, a space it shared with the Boys and Girls Club. During the 1990’s, the Y was able to enjoy the exercising craze that hit America and began to increase its membership. In 1995 the Y was awarded a grant to promote the “Working Hearts” program aimed at heart disease prevention. In 1996 the Y partnered with the City School District and opened an after school site in each elementary school in New Rochelle, fulfilling a great need in the community. In 2000 the Y was awarded a grant to open a child care site at the New Rochelle Family Court house on North Avenue, which provides child care services to parents navigating the court system. In 2006 the Y purchased the 50 Weyman Avenue facility from the city, and became the sole occupant of the building and created more space for membership services and programs.

The YMCA’s presence in the community has continued to increase over the last ten years, as the focus of the Y shifted from a “swim and gym club” to a community based charitable organization, which offers affordable programs, in addition to providing financial aid for children and families in need. Faced with a roof repair which closed down the pool and all aquatic programs for over 16 months in 2014-2015, the Y volunteers and staff mobilized the community and raised the needed funds to reopen the pool in 2016. The new facility is a testament to the importance of our Y in the community.

Currently the YMCA serves close to 5,000 members, with a great majority of seniors and children. The YMCA has developed a Universal Pre-K program in partnership with the New Rochelle school district. We are also home to the Sailfish Youth Swim Team, Silver Sneakers, Junior NBA Basketball, and YMCA Camp New Roc in the summer.

The New Rochelle YMCA has served the communities of greater New Rochelle – including Pelham, Larchmont and surrounding towns – for 120 years. The Y is proud to serve ALL in the community as we stand for YOUTH DEVELOPMENT, HEALTHY LIVING and SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY.