Nu‘uanu YMCA

A Branch Built on Equality.

From Separation to Integration

In 1917, five YMCA leaders made a historic decision for their time—they would combine the separate Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Filipino YMCA associations into a new single building where all would be welcomed. The branch they founded was the Nu‘uanu YMCA. It was recognized as a landmark achievement for racial integration throughout the YMCAs in the United States.

The Boys Built A New Fort

Nu‘uanu YMCA’s original work focused on boys who lived in the surrounding “rough neighborhoods.” In July 1937, many of those boys had become successful young businessmen. They realized their beloved Y was now too small to house programs for both youth and adults, so they formed a “Committee of 100” to make their own space. They raised $120,000 to construct a second Y building adjacent to the original and dubbed it the Nu’uanu Adult Branch.

Diversity Gets a New Home

As membership outgrew the branch and development swept across downtown, the Y moved across the street. On October 27, 1963, the new $1.3 million Nu‘uanu YMCA became the flagship branch of the YMCA of Honolulu. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Youth Center Division building was added on May 26, 1994. Today, the thriving Nu‘uanu YMCA continues to serve the mixed plate of races, income levels and evolving needs of its community.

Founders of the Nu‘uanu YMCA: Frank C. Atherton, Dr. Iga Mori, Dr. William D. Westervelt, Dr. Singman Rhee, and Chung K. Ai. Ai's grandson, Steven Ai, is carrying on the legacy of his family’s City Mill business. he is also continuing their foundation's support for the YMCA serving as a Metro Board Member and as agenerous benefactor of programs for at-risk youth.
Boys' Club members loved the Nu’uanu Westervelt pool that was added in May 1925 to the original Nu'uanu Y building. 
YMCA Martial Art Firsts: The first Karate demonstration in the U.S. was at the Nu’uanu YMCA in 1927. Classes for Kempo Jiu-Jitsu, a form of Karate, began in 1942. In 1953, Hawai‘i became the first place outside of Japan to be introduced to Aikido. Six years later in 1959, the Nu‘uanu YMCA became the first YMCA in America to offer Karate and Aikido classes (shown above), which still continue today.
In 1969, volunteer Kumu Hula Aunty Carolee Nishi started Nu‘uanu YMCA’s Hula Hui O Kapunahala to enrich the lives of underprivileged children by teaching them Hawaiian culture, language, hula, and music, along with important life lessons. Since then, generations of youth continue to benefit from Aunty Carolee’s mana‘o of responsibility, respect and wholesome values.
Launched in 2016, Nu‘uanu YMCA’s Power Scholars Academy at Central Middle School provides a free summer academic and enrichment program to underserved sixth graders who are struggling academically. The program increases their literacy and math skills by up to three months, and sparks a positive change in their growth and self-confidence.

Windward YMCA ➔