Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | April 12, 2016

Cornwall’s YM-YWCA

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.

YMYMCA_15_WMThis 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.

YMYMCA_14_WMThe 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 IOOF (Three Links) Hall; in 1992 the Three Links Club, comprised of 110 members of the Odd Fellows, the Rebeccas and the financial wing of the group, relocated from this site to the former Jehovah’s Witness Church building on 13th Street West. Subsequently the First Street West site functioned as a series of youth drop-in centres – most recently Youth for Christ. Eventually the vacant building was demolished to make way for townhouses.

Mountain Memorial Garden ca 1950 Enh_WMThe YWCA organized in 1937 with Miss Verda Ullman as directress and for 21 years made use of a variety of rented quarters.  The 1944 Directory indicates that they had an office at 110 First Street East.  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.

YWCA 407 4th E Cr_WMIn 1954 the YWCA purchased an old house at 407 Fourth Street East to use as its headquarters.

YMYMCA_17_WMIn 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.

YMYMCA_18_WMThe facility was officially opened on September 12, 1962. The above photo was taken on July 6, 1964. Verda Ullman, Cornwall’s YWCA foundress, had made a visit to the City. Pictured are Sigi Ortmayr, then Executive Director, Mrs. M.O. Good, Ullman, and Mayor Nick Kaneb.

Y 5th ST EWhen the “Y” found it difficult to make ends meet, the Kinsmen Club got involved and turned it over to the City.

2010_20_4On October 17, 1970, the University of Ottawa opened an extension office inside the Kinsmen Centre.
Y_0008 The library, pictured above,  housed 2,500 books. Other rooms included two offices, two seminar study rooms, and a lounge. The University first began offering courses in Cornwall in 1955 and the Cornwall Association for University Extension was formed in December of 1967.


When the 100 Water Street East Aquatic Centre opened in September of 2005, the Kinsmen Centre was no longer cost-effective. In 2009, rather than demolishing the building, the City sold the property to real estate agent Sandy Cameron for a token $1 amount for the subsequent redevelopment of the Fifth Street East site into 13 condos with a gym.

Condo_20171123_184428_webIn 2017, the SD&G Historical Society designed a commemorative story board history of the Y in Cornwall and the condo board printed the 24″ x 36″ board and placed it on permanent exhibit at the main entrance.

These photos and many others are available from the SD&G Historical Society Archives located at the Cornwall Community Museum.


  1. Very interesting story. My first job out of school in 1972 was for the University of Ottawa Cornwall Campus which was located on the top floor at the YMCA. I worked out of the library…brings back memories to see that photo of the library. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you for sharing that, Colette. Do you have any photos or other memories to share? 🙂

  2. These photographs bring back many great memories of my years on staff at the “Y”.

    In June of 1962, Earl Meyers, manager of the Stormont Water Plant, and I were the first to have an unofficial swim in the “first time filled” new swimming pool .

    I am still in possession of the original 1962 programme brochure booklets. I will be donating these to the museum and to the strata board residents now living in the fifth street building.

    Like many many others, I was shocked to hear of the closing of the YM/YWCA. So much history and countless volunteer hours went into making this a viable and significant community organization.

    I look forward to sharing memories when I next visit with you in Cornwall.

    Floyd Johnson
    Physical Education Director
    1962 – 1965

    Victoria (Sidney), BC

  3. That’s great, Floyd. Looking forward to your visit.

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