The very first YMCA to open in North America was located in Montreal!

We seem to be on the topic of “Move It” this week, so I did a little research into the  history of the Y!  By learning a little about the Y, I end up learning a bit about Montreal and Concordia University.

In 1851, the very first North American YMCA opened in Montreal.  It is located on rue des Récollets and rue Sainte-Hélène.

The man who founded the YMCA was Sir George Williams.  He was a man who was wild at one point and then became a devote Christian.  It seems to me that he really understood the meaning of a “good life.”  In 1844, while working as a draper in London during the Industrial Revolution, he organized workers to engage in healthy activities during their free-time.  One of the important activities that was encouraged by the YMCA was continuing education.

During this time, continuing education for workers was controversial because education was thought to be a privilege belonging to the elite.  In 1873, the YMCA in Montreal started offering night courses to labourers.  This was the beginning of Sir George Williams College which opened in 1926.  It was located in the 1911 YMCA building on Drummond Street. University level courses were offered starting in 1929.  Eventually Sir George Williams University merged with Loyola College to become Concordia University.

If you know anything more about this history, drop me a line in the comments.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal