The first YMCA was conceived in industrial London in 1844 when a farmer-turned-department store worker, George Williams, and his friends gathered to organize a refuge to help young men like himself address pressing social challenges. The idea found a home in the U.S. seven years later at the Old South Church in Boston. The last 170+ years have seen the Y's mission grow exponentially, and today the Y engages more than 10,000 communities across the U.S. Today, the Y still hearkens back to its roots in creating safe, enriching spaces for communities across the globe.
The Watertown Family YMCA is the 33rd founded Y in the nation, out of total of 2,700!
The first startings of the Watertown Family YMCA began with a group of men meeting on the evening of December 16, 1869. The need for Watertown's own YMCA was seen by Captain Wilkinson, who was stationed at Madison Barracks in Sackets Harbor. His influence upon the right families opened the door for a room in Washington Hall to be donated by owner John Sherman.
John Sherman left the entirety of Washington Hall to the YMCA at the time of his death.
Washington Hall would eventually be torn down to make space for a new, 6-story YMCA complete with a lap swimming pool and large gymnasium. This was the start of the Downtown Branch of the Watertown Family YMCA.
Since then, we have added multiple other branches in order to serve and make our amenities increasingly accessible to our communities. In 2004, the Carthage YMCA was opened. 2 years later, the Fairgrounds YMCA opened.
However, that growth has not stopped. Construction is underway for the New Downtown Y slated to open in November 2023.