The history of the YMCA in Miami is the story of a group of pioneers who joined together to bring a set of values to a community, and to help that community become stronger in spirit, mind and body. Through their words, their actions, and their commitment to principle, our founders and those who carried their ideals forward made a lasting impact on our city. Their legacy can be seen in the achievements of each child, parent and family we serve.
On April 16, 1916, our Y was born. It was then known as the Young Men’s Christian Association of Miami, Florida. Later that week, a few visionary citizens gathered in the library of the law offices of Shutts, Smith & Bowen in the Burdine Building on East Flagler Street to hold the first Board of Directors meeting. Dr. James M. Jackson, the first permanent physician in Miami, was elected president.
The Board quickly began to make the vision of a YMCA in Miami a reality. They purchased property at Avenue A and 11th Street where the downtown Y sat for 60 years. The land was owned by Margaret Kearney, who was housekeeper for Julia Tuttle, founder of the City of Miami. According to Fleming G. “Pat” Railey, one of the first board members, in an interview in The Miami News in May, 1958, there were “three or four little scrubby houses…which Mrs. Kearney kept rented. We sold them and had them carted off.”
The first contributor was B.F. Keith of the Keith Vaudeville Circuit. He had a winter home in Miami, and gave Dr. Jackson $5,000 to “be used if and when a YMCA should be organized locally.”
For 100 years, the Y has been part of Miami history, caring for children, providing recreational activities for all ages, reaching out, and educating our community about leading a healthy life.
Today, the mission continues to build a healthy spirit, mind and body.
1915-William S. Frost is sent to Miami to establish a YMCA. He recruited Dr. James Jackson, the young city’s most prominent physician.
1916 – First Board of Directors meeting is held at Shutts, Smith & Bowen law library in the Burdine Building on East Flagler Street.
1917-Ground breaking for a new YMCA building. Building costs are estimated at 25 cents per square foot.
1918 – Building is dedicated. The new facility contains a dining room, 85 dormitory rooms with free lodging to those in need, as well as an employment bureau. In 1918, 2900 attend Y activities.
1919-The Miami Y begins to serve African-Americans through community programs.
1926 – Seventeen outside organizations held 39 meetings in the Y building. Five thousand boys are served – gym, swimming, Bible study, social and club groups.
1935 – Hi-Y Club starts playground activities for African-American boys at Booker T. Washington Public School.
1940 – Allapattah Branch opens. It was originally called “Northwest.” Today it’s the Village of Allapattah YMCA Family Center and Preschool.
1944 – Coral Gables Branch (later called Southwest, and then YMCA Downrite Park) opens.
1945 – George Washington Carver Branch opens. Today our Y, together with housing partners, offers two towers of Affordable Housing at Village Carver.
1953 – Residential Camp in Lake Placid opens.
1956 – Hialeah/Miami Springs Branch opens.
1957 – North Dade Branch opens. The Downtown Y attracts 42,869 people; total attendance at all Y activities is 246,610.
1958 – The downtown YMCA celebrates 40 years in Miami.
1963 – Jose Marti International Branch opens to serve newly arriving Cuban immigrants.
1972 – Downtown YMCA pool opens to women.
1976 – South Dade YMCA chartered. It’s first home was in the old McArthur Dairy building on USI.
1978 – Original Downtown Miami Y closes. Building is demolished.
1979- Pool is built at Allapattah Branch.
1985 – Homestead YMCA is chartered.
1992- Y steps into Hurricane Andrew recovery efforts and sets up child care at Harris Field’s Tent City.
1995 – Homestead YMCA Family Center and Preschool opens at Harris Field, in partnership with the City of Homestead.
2002 – South Dade YMCA opens at its new location on 134 Street just west of The Falls Shopping Center.
2005 – YMCA offers free camp to kids with no place to go after Hurricane Wilma closes many schools.
2006 – YMCA of Greater Miami celebrates 90 years of service.
2009 – The new Village of Allapattah YMCA Family Center and Preschool opens, including two towers of Affordable Housing for families and senior citizens.
2011 – The North Pointe YMCA Family Center and Youth Activity Center opens, in partnership with Miami-Dade County Park and Recreation Department.
2013 – The new South Dade YMCA Family Center opens.
2016 – The Y celebrates 100 years of service to the people of Miami-Dade County.