Prior to 1960, Cornwall’s YMCA and YWCA were two separate organizations.
Cornwall’s first YMCA launched in 1876 and later closed shop. In 1945 a new YMCA was organized and made use of various public facilities. It opened its very own centre at 15 First Street West the following year.
This YMCA, which became a YW/YWCA, was built at 15 First Street West. The front section, shown above, was the headquarters with a cement foundation. The main floor was a bricked hut purchased from the former Cornwall Basic Army Training Centre #31. The full-sized basement housed the furnace room, a kitchen, dining room, locker room and showers. Besides the offices, the main floor also contained a reading room and committee rooms.
The rear clapboard section, also a hut from the former Cornwall Basic Army Training Centre #31, had no basement, but stood on cedar piles. It was the gymnasium and was a popular spot for teen dances. Each of the two buildings were approximately 20′ by 60′ and were joined in an inverted ‘T’ configuration. Later, for many years the building was used as an Odd Fellows Hall, then as a series of youth drop-in centres – most recently Youth for Christ. Eventually the vacant building was demolished to make way for townhouses.
The YWCA organized in 1937 with Miss Verda Ullman as directress and for 21 years made use of a variety of rented quarters. Circa 1953, a YWCA operated out of Trinity Church’s Mountain Memorial Hall. That building was destroyed by fire in 1962. Beek Lindsay House seniors’ apartments are at that location today.
In 1960 a citizens’ group raised funds for a new joint YM-YWCA facility. Cornwall’s most recent YM-YWCA was constructed at 412 Fifth Street East, diagonally behind the former Fourth Street East YWCA. The facility was officially opened on September 12, 1962.
When the “Y” found it difficult to make ends meet, the Kinsmen Club got involved and turned it over to the City. The building was eventually gutted and converted to condos with a privately owned commercial gym at the rear.
These photos and many others are available from the SD&G Historical Society Archives located at the Cornwall Community Museum.