In 1909, a local pastor, wishing to take advantage of a new wave of local spiritual enthusiasm, traveled to Chicago to confer with area YMCA officials about organizing a YMCA.
“Naperville is too small for a Y,” he was told. “… Experience has shown us they won’t work in a community of that size.”
At this time Naperville was a town of 4,000. But the Y sent someone to the community to talk, and after a well-attended community meeting the idea took hold.
At a meeting on April 4, 1909, Peter Kroehler, founder of Kroehler Mfg. Co., made a motion that a YMCA should be organized and a building erected if they could secure 300 members for a $5 membership fee. By June 22, a 15-day fund-raising drive was held, raising $26,266. During this membership drive each evening when their quota was reached, the bell in the Congregational Church Tower rang.
Once the money was raised, the location on Washington Street was chosen as a site and was purchased for $4,500. Excavation began in November 1909 and the following Memorial Day the cornerstone was laid. Less than one year later on March 26, 1911, the formal dedication of a three story brick building took place. The Y was the smallest community YMCA in the nation.
Some other fun facts about the Naperville YMCA….
- It was among the first in the nation to admit women. On November 13, 1911, it was decided to allow ladies and girls to use the YMCA 1 ½ hours per week. One year later, women were given further use.
- During the war years the Y contributed by making its facilities available to the American Red Cross.
- The Y was the original community center and meeting place for many organizations including Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis Clubs and Chamber of Commerce.
At the YMCA, strengthening community is our cause as it has been for more than 100 years in Naperville. In this day and age, support and community are more important than ever. So YMCA, on your birthday I say thank you for your contributions and Happy Birthday!