Clio Logo

The YMCA of Greater Boston has become, over the decades, a nationally recognized association, both culturally and socially relevant. Founded in the mid 19th century, it has assisted thousands of families of immigrants in the hard process of integration and Americanization, offering both language classes and employment assistance. At the end of the 20th century, it also started to offer affordable housing for previously homeless people and families.


  • YMCA on Huntington Avenue today
  • YMCA on the 19th century

The first Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in the United States was founded in Boston in 1851 by a group of evangelicals from several Boston churches.

Modeled on the original YMCA established in London in 1844, this new organization offered, especially to immigrants, a safe gathering place, opportunities for socializing, bible-study classes, and prayer meetings.

One of the founders explained that the Y's mission was to "meet the young stranger as he enters our city, take him by the hand, direct him to a boarding house where he may find a quiet home. . . and in every way throw around him good influences, so that he may feel that he is not a stranger."

The organization quickly outgrew its first home in Washington and Summer streets in downtown Boston. In the Y's new quarters at the corner of Tremont Street and Temple Place, it offered many services for its members: a library and reading room, a gymnasium, classes and lectures, social gatherings, employment assistance, and a register of respectable boarding houses.

Over the next half-century, the Boston YMCA evolved to support new waves of immigrants arriving to work in the factories of the industrial revolution by establishing branches in several neighborhoods of the city. Throughout the 20th century, the YMCA of Greater Boston continued and strengthened its tradition of service. New neighborhood branches and mergers of independent YMCAs also continued growth around the city.

In 1984, the YMCA Training, Inc. program was created and later combined with the International Learning Center to provide workforce training, computer skills, and English as a second language classes to the community. Finally, in 1995, the Huntington Avenue YMCA converted dorm-style rooms to create eighty-eight affordable permanent and transitional housing units for formerly homeless single adults and families.

“YMCA of Greater Boston's Mission & History.” YMCA of Greater Boston, ymcaboston.org/mission-and-history.

“International Learning Center.” YMCA of Greater Boston, ymcaboston.org/internationallearningcenter.

“YMCA.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Sept. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YMCA.

0