The Rye Y over 100 years ago

The Rye Y over 100 years ago The Rye Y over 100 years ago

Rye Y History

The Rye Y's  History in 8 1/2 minutes (Video by Tony Coash)

There are over 2000 YMCAs in the United States and over 4000 worldwide. During its long and distinguished history, YMCAs have been known for their tradition of program innovations to better serve members and communities. The following are just a few YMCA innovations:

  • Volleyball – Created by the YMCA in 1895.
  • Racquetball – Originated by Joe Solbeck in the Greenwich, Connecticut YMCA.
  • Softball – Developed by a physical director in the Denver YMCA.
  • Basketball – Originated by the YMCA at Springfield College, Massachusetts in 1891
  • Systematic Certifications – The YMCA was the first to establish certification programs for Life Saving, Swimming and Aquatic Instruction.
  • Boy Scouts – Originated under YMCA leadership. The first Chief Scout Executive was a Washington, DC YMCA volunteer.

The 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. Click here to read more about YMCA history on the National YMCA website.


Although activities of the Rye YMCA can be traced back as far as 1869, official documentation of the Y’s origins in Rye indicate that 1914 is the year we can herald as the beginning of our spirit, mind and body journey in this community. By combing through Board minutes and corporate documents, we have been able to piece together our almost 100 years in Rye. Though details are sketchy, and the documents faded, what is clear is that the Rye Y’s founders and its leaders throughout the years, worked hard to address the ever changing needs of the community. We take special note of the following highlights that have spanned over 100 years of serving this community.

The Rye Chronicle reported in 1939 that the very first YMCA activity in Rye took place as early as 1869.

Documents indicate that planning for a Rye YMCA began at the end of 1913, with much activity taking place in the early part of 1914. Y staff and members first met in the old Library building and then in October of 1914, secured quarters above the old Guerin’s Drug store on Purchase St. located where the Rye Trust Building has stood for years.

Members used a local riding stable as a makeshift gymnasium for indoor activities and George Barron’s field on Central Ave as a baseball diamond. Other activities included tennis and pool, lectures, musical activities, etc. They also held track meets and organized a youth debate team.

  • 1919: The Rye Y is incorporated and for unknown reasons, ends up going back to the old library for meetings.
  • 1920s: The current Y property is purchased from the Raymond family. In 1929 the Y builds the original gymnasium and invites ex-President Calvin Coolidge, Charles Lindbergh, and John D. Rockefeller to attend. The gym cost $131,781.86 to build.Bowling and baseball leagues are very popular; the Y builds 4 lanes in 1928 in the space that is now the Child Care room. Club programs include Hi-Y Club and Pioneer Club which hosts a basketball tournament for many years.
  • 1930s: Y General Secretary, Pa Cope, recommends that the Y provide recreation for the women and girls in the community. They are granted 1 day and 1 night.The Y acquires land at Lake George in 1932 and operates it as a boys summer camp until its sale in 1970. During the Depression the Y becomes a gathering spot for the community where they hold dances, community get togethers, basketball tournaments, etc.
  • 1940s: During the war the Hi Y club organizes efforts to send sweaters, socks and letters to our boys overseas. In 1945, the Y opens a snack bar for teens to have a place to go for dancing, socializing and refreshments. By the late 1940’s activities at the Y include special trips to the Greenwich and White Plains Y’s for swimming, sledding at Apawamis, ping-pong team (2-5 in1948), badminton team, track meets, weight room (sweat room).
  • 1948: Started a day camp that includes swims at Playland, kickball, softball, badminton, crafts, etc. Pa Cope provides for a TV to be donated so the boys can watch sports and games.
  • 1950s: Trips to rodeos, the circus and sporting events are popular. An amateur circus is held to raise funds for a movie projector. In 1955 the Y’s original pool is built and named the Pa Cope Memorial Pool in memory of this legendary Camp Director.
  • 1960s: Popular programs include scuba, swim teams, annual hometown circus, youth and government, badminton tournaments, boy’s gymnastics, coed swims in the pool. Girls memberships are on the rise. In the mid 1960’s the Y begins its relationship with the Rye Association for the Handicapped, which continues today.
  • 1970s: The fitness movement begins to take off as the Y provides a new Universal gym, cardiovascular programming and hires a full-time women’s director. Karate, Judo, kinder-gym, squash and handball are offered in the new courts that open in 1972.
  • 1980s: Fitness and woman entering the work world are apparent in new programming such as aerobic dance, discussions of nautilus equipment, and the introduction of our childcare program in 1985.
  • 1990s: Membership growth expands rapidly, resulting in a new fitness center being built in 1993. This transformation leads to talks of expansion beginning in 1995.
  • February 8th, 2003 – Grand Opening of new Y expansion and renovation which includes: a new 6 lane pool, fitness center, lobby and gymnasium (a total expansion of 25,000 sq. ft.)

In 2005 the Rye Y was selected by the YMCA of the USA to be a pilot site for a new national health initiative called Activate America – Pioneering Healthier Communities. Much of the Y’s work from that time through the present has focused on promoting healthier lifestyles through the Y’s entire service area which now includes Rye, Harrison, Mamaroneck, Larchmont and Port Chester.