> YMCA of the East Bay > About the Y > History


of the YMCA of the East Bay


YMCA of the USA History

Historic YMCA bldgThe Young Men's Christian Association was founded in London, England, on June 6, 1844, in response to unhealthy social conditions arising in the big cities at the end of the Industrial Revolution (roughly 1750 to 1850). Growth of the railroads and centralization of commerce and industry brought many rural young men who needed jobs into cities like London. They worked long hours and were far from home and family. 

George Williams arrived in London in 1841 as a sales assistant in a draper's shop. He and a group of fellow drapers organized the first YMCA to substitute Bible study and prayer for life on the streets. By 1851 there were 24 Ys in Great Britain, with a combined membership of 2,700. That same year the Y arrived in North America: It was established in Montreal on November 25, and in Boston on December 29.

1892 basketballThe idea proved popular everywhere. In 1853, the first YMCA for African Americans was founded in Washington, D.C., by Anthony Bowen, a freed slave. The next year the first international convention was held in Paris. At the time, there were 397 separate Ys in seven nations, with 30,369 members total.

Since then, the YMCA has made contributions to many aspects of life in the United States.  YMCAs invented basketball, racquetball and volleyball; we introduced the world’s first indoor pool and group swim lessons.  YMCAs pioneered camping, public libraries, night schools and teaching English as a second language. 


YMCA of the East Bay History 

Historic YMCA - OaklandThe YMCA of the East Bay was started in 1879 as the Young Men’s Christian Association of Oakland.  In a few short years the Oakland YMCA membership grew, with new branches opening in East Oakland, now known as the Eastlake YMCA, and on Telegraph Avenue, the original YMCA in Oakland, with housing for men.  These facilities offered housing, sports, recreation, language instruction and character development for thousands of young men.  In West Contra Costa County, community members organized the Richmond Coronado Community YMCA in 1918.

historic camperDuring the next half century, the Oakland YMCA expanded with branches in Northwest Oakland, Hayward, Fremont, and the Tri-Valley area to become the YMCA of Alameda County.  The Richmond YMCA extended its program activities to Pinole, Rodeo, Hercules and San Pablo to become the West Contra Costa YMCA.  In 1990, the YMCAs of Alameda County and West Contra Costa County merged to form the YMCA of the East Bay. Over the years, expansions also incorporated camping services located at Loma Mar (Santa Cruz Mountains), Ravencliff (South Humboldt County) and most recently at Camp Arroyo (Livermore Hills). It was at Camp Loma Mar that the renowned Ragger Program was conceived and piloted in 1914.




More about the Y