Central YMCA

Home Away From Home.

A Haven For Newcomers

In America, YMCA housing started in the 1860s to give young men—many of whom immigrated from rural areas or European countries—safe and affordable lodging in the city. By 1940, Y accommodations across the U.S. grew to more than 100,000—more than any hotel chain at the time.

Hawai‘i’s First Y Residence

The Y's first building opened in 1883. A mere seven years later, O‘ahu's population had nearly tripled to 81,993.

At that time, many newcomers were sailors and immigrants or men who arrived penniless and in need of work. Realizing the dire need for lodging and expanded youth work, YMCA Honolulu sold its first YMCA building and used the proceeds and donations to build a larger facility across the street. The new building: Central YMCA.

Central YMCA was an impressive three-story establishment along Hotel and Alakea Streets and Adams Lane, and featured a central courtyard, 24 rooms with 33 beds, and ample space for socializing and physical activity.

Bigger and Better

By 1949, O‘ahu had undergone a post-war boom which resulted in approximately 112,944 youths who were not enrolled in leisure-time activities. To answer the need, the YMCA Honolulu sold the original Central YMCA property and built an even larger Central YMCA facility on Ala Moana Boulevard and Atkinson Drive, which offered expanded programs for youth, families, adults and residential services.

Although Central Y is officially closed for redevelopment, its residence facility continues to provide affordable accommodations as well as safe housing for unsheltered individuals and families in partnership with social service agencies.

A 5-acre property across the street from Ala Moana Beach Park on Atkinson Drive and Ala Moana Blvd was the site of the new 1951 Central YMCA building.
Central YMCA was dedicated on October 15, 1951, and included a health and fitness annex, 113 residential rooms, club and craft rooms, a chapel, gym, pool, large athletic field, and a snack shop.
Central Y member Keo Nakama became the first man to swim the Moloka‘i Channel on September 30, 1961, and completed it in 15.5 hours. At the time, he was a retired 27-time US National Swim champion who had joined Central Y to “take off weight.” He rebuilt himself into such great condition that at the age of 40, Nakama decided to tackle the stormy channel. He continued as a member of Central YMCA into his 80s and passed away at 91.

Kaimuki - Wai‘alae ➔