November 22, 2015: Central Y to mark Champion Street anniversary with open house

The Central YMCA will celebrate 100 years at its current location in downtown Youngstown with an open house from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22.

Central YMCA staff will greet current and former members and the general public also is invited to attend. The Central YMCA is located at 17 N. Champion St.

The open house will include facility tours, meet-and-greets, historical photo displays and refreshments. The event will culminate with an announcement on planned capital improvements to the Central YMCA.

The Central Y opened in November 1915. President William Howard Taft delivered the dedication speech.

The YMCA of Youngstown has a long and illustrious history. It has been serving the Youngstown community since the 1800s. What began as a retreat to protect the values of young farmers moving to the city for work, the YMCA is now a cornerstone of the community.

Established in 1872 by Dr. R.D. Gibson, the Youngstown YMCA began at the house of Gibson’s parents. The YMCA quickly grew and moved to the second floor of a new building on East Federal Street. It became an independent, locally controlled Ohio corporation in 1884, just 32 years after the first YMCA in the United States was founded.

That year, a reading room was opened at the YMCA to enrich the lives of its young men. In 1906 the reading room expanded to include an educational director. The expansion eventually grew into the Youngstown Law School, which ultimately became Youngstown State University. Additionally, WKBN housed its earliest radio broadcasting studios on the third floor of the Central Y.

Today, the YMCA of Youngstown has grown to include over 17,000 members and includes three branches that provide programming to develop its mission.

Tim Hilk is Chief Executive Officer.

Central YMCA staff includes Mike Shaffer, Executive Director; Eric Buckingham, Membership Director; Tara Bishop, Aquatic Director; Maureen Horvath, Fitness Director; Joselyn Parker, Youth and Teen Director; D’Nelle Seiple, Youth Sports League Director; Karl Reder, Maintenance Director; and Jenn Quinlan, Community Cup Director.

Local YMCA facilities include:

Central Branch – Housed at 17 North Champion St., in the heart of downtown Youngstown since 1915. Because the Central Y is a long-standing community institution, most Youngstown residents have great memories of visiting the Y as children and young adults and continue to share the legacy of the “Y experience” with their children and grandchildren.

Camp Fitch on Lake Erie – Camp Fitch began in the early 1900s as a boy’s summer bible camp at Muddy Lake near Ravenna. The first permanent camp was opened in 1914 in West Point, Ohio. Within 10 years, the resident camp became so popular that it outgrew its West Point location. After a donation from the Fitch family, Camp Fitch moved in 1924 to its current location in North Springfield, Pa. with 450-acre grounds. Today, Camp Fitch is open 360 days-a-year and serves thousands of boys and girls, as well as their families. Spanning generations, many families have three and four generations of Camp Fitch campers who now share similar experiences and memories.

D.D. & Velma Davis Family YMCA – The newest facility of the YMCA of Youngstown opened in 2003. The D.D. and Velma Davis Family YMCA was developed to complement the Central Branch and provide fun and educational activities, including an outdoor aquatic center and recreational area.

The following information on the Central Y was provided by Al Leonhart, YMCA archivist.

• The Central Y once had a rooftop gym completely enclosed by a wire fence.

• The building originally had four working fireplaces. Two are still visible in the Cardio Center on the first floor.

• The building’s original pool closed in 1954, but still exists completely intact under the Hammer Strength weight room floor. After the pool closed, it became a Civil Defense shelter during the Cold War.

• The Central Y once boasted a three-chair barber shop, a full-service tailor shop, and a print shop where all the Y newsletters were produced.

• Dormitory rooms – located on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors – were known as Dorm City. The dorms had a mayor who oversaw all three floors. Each floor had council members who addressed resident concerns, arranged field trips and sporting events. Competitive activities included table tennis and basketball at Central, and baseball at Mill Creek Park.

• The Central Y had a four-lane bowling alley and a billiards room whose original purpose was to keep young men and boys from entering establishments outside of the YMCA where they may have been subjected to cigarettes, alcohol, and questionable language.

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