In 1891, about half a century after the world’s first Young Men’s Christian Association was born in London, England, “for the betterment of the human condition,” a YMCA came into being in Wausau, Wisconsin. C.J. Winton served as its President, and a group of boys would have their Y meetings in Winton’s home.
Two years later, a lot was purchased for $2,500 at the northwest corner of Scott and Fourth Streets. Generous citizens soon contributed $10,000, and Wausau’s first Y building was completed in 1893. At the end of its first year, the new YMCA had 267 members.
Soon after the turn of the 20th century, it became clear that the Wausau Y was outgrowing its first building. In 1907, a lot at the Y’s present site on Grant and Third Streets was purchased, and with a fund-raising campaign, a red brick building was built with $56,000. Property to the north was then purchased and two tennis courts were constructed there. Land directly east of the Y was later donated to the city by C.C. Yawkey, and to this day the adjacent Yawkey Park enhances the beauty and value of the Woodson YMCA.
By the late 1950s, the red brick building was bursting at its seams, and plans were developed to build a far bigger and better facility at the same location. With the generosity of the Woodson Foundation and the enthusiastic support of Wausau citizens, the necessary funds were raised and the building project began in 1962.
Another landmark in the YMCA journey was reached that same year, when the Y Board voted to change its constitution, enabling women and girls to be included in its membership. The organization then became a family-centered YMCA.
In the following decades, Wausau’s Family Y greatly expanded its programs and services to the point where an expansion of the building was launched in 1978. Through all its decades of growth and progress, the Wausau Y has consistently been “an organization for everyone,” regardless of economic status, thanks to its generous scholarship program.
In 1990, a half-million dollar renovation program was completed to spruce up and improve the Y’s facilities, and in 1991, the Woodson YMCA celebrated its 100th year of serving people in the Wausau area. The Wellness Center space was added to the Wausau Branch in 1994
The Woodson YMCA’s services and programs continued to flourish, and on May 24, 2004, groundbreaking took place for the Woodson YMCA – Aspirus Branch in Weston. The building of this new $8 million, 78,000 square-foot branch facility was made possible through a generous lead donation by Wausau Aspirus Hospital and additional support from other area foundations, corporations, members and residents. The Woodson YMCA – Aspirus Branch opened its doors on February 26, 2005 with a week-long celebration and open house.
Our Y completed a major renovation in 2014, a $3 million dollar expansion project, with the help of private donations. We added a modern looking ground-level entrance where members check-in, with access to drop-in Mini Care just beyond the main desk. Those who attend a class in our beautiful upstairs North Studio get to enjoy a panoramic view through our panel of windows. We added the perfect space for yoga classes, with our heated lower level Yoga Studio. Child care gained additional space with our infant/toddler room. Plus, the renovation included a functional and fun space for kids with our new Birthday Room and addition of the two-story Climbing Wall on the south end of the building.
Today, with our flagship facility in downtown Wausau, our Aspirus YMCA Branch in Weston, and our YMCA satellite programs in Mosinee, the Woodson YMCA continues to be a positive influence in people’s lives and hopes to play an even more significant role in our community in the years ahead.