The roots of the YMCA of Paterson are buried deep in the history of the “Silk City.” During our nation’s tragic Civil War, several young men gathered in a local congregational church, wrote a constitution and, according to one contemporary source, planned ”an interesting course of social, intellectual, and spiritual exercises.”
From its early beginning in 1863 until 1867, the YMCA of Paterson seemed to alternate between periods of great popularity and community involvement and intervals of inactivity and public appeals for membership.
The first YMCA of Paterson building was located at 20-202 Market Street. The facility offered a gym, bible classes, a reading room, and an “employment bureau.”
In 1892, the YMCA of Paterson moved into the former Cooke home on Ellison Street. Mrs. Sarah E. Cooke had donated her elegant mansion to the YMCA of Paterson in memory of her late husband John Cooke of the renowned locomotive firm Danforth & Cooke. A building containing bath, bowling alleys, a gymnasium, and an assembly hall was erected behind this facility.
Paterson’s historic 1902 fire destroyed the YMCA of Paterson building on Ellison Street, but a new facility was soon erected at 137 Ellison Street. The new facility boasted dormitories, a swimming pool, track, and a library. Services included assistance to immigrants and fund-raising for American military forces during World War I.
Our present YMCA headquarters opened on September 14, 1930. This facility was constructed when the 137 Ellison Street location became too small to accommodate the varied needs of the residence, youth, and physical departments. The new facility was built at a cost of $1,500,000. Shortly after moving in, the YMCA of Paterson initiated a relief and job referral service for victims of the Depression. During World War II, pre-induction physical training was offered to potential military recruits.
The YMCA of Paterson has shifted its course from a predominantly recreational facility to a community center that offers housing to vulnerable populations, as well as social, cultural, and educational services for people of all ages. The staff of the YMCA of Paterson takes pride in this ability to adapt our programs to meet the current needs of the community. The staff of the YMCA of Paterson hails predominantly from the Paterson community and reflects the rich diversity of this city
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