History of YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth
The YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth is part of a worldwide organization dedicated to putting Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.
Founded in 1844 in London, England, the YMCA quickly became a popular organization. The YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth was established in 1890 when Fort Worth was just a frontier town. In those early days, a “Gospel Wagon” was used to transport young men from the streets of Fort Worth to rented YMCA facilities where their physical and spiritual needs were addressed.
In 1903, the first Negro YMCA branch in Fort Worth was organized, and in 1919 the branch became a part of the Fort Worth YMCA. The branch was renamed the McDonald YMCA in 1944 when Bill “Gooseneck” McDonald, a well-respected African-American businessman, donated a building which was used from 1944-1971. The McDonald YMCA moved to its current location in 1971.
During the 20th century, two legendary leaders of Fort Worth, Amon G. Carter, Sr., and his son, Amon G. Carter, Jr., were instrumental in helping the YMCA grow. Amon Carter, Sr., served on the YMCA board in the early years, laying the cornerstone for the Downtown YMCA building in 1924 and helping establish Camp Carter YMCA with a gift of land in 1948. It was Amon Carter, Jr.’s influence, after serving time in a WWII prison camp and befriending a YMCA worker there, that inspired the development of Camp Carter. Like his father, Amon Carter, Jr., also served as the board chair for the Downtown YMCA. After his death, the central YMCA building was renamed the Amon Carter, Jr., Downtown YMCA in honor of Carter’s service as board chair.
Through the years, a number of additional branch YMCAs have opened in the Fort Worth area, including the Poly YMCA (1937), which later became the Eastside YMCA, the Northwest YMCA, which began as the Northside YMCA in 1946, the Westside YMCA (1948), originally called the Arlington Heights YMCA, the E. R. Van Zandt Southwest YMCA (1952), which began as the TCU-Southside branch, the Airport YMCA (1985), the Southeast YMCA (1991), the Clark Nowlin YMCA (1991-2008), the Ryan Family YMCA (1994), the Benbrook Community Center/YMCA (2000), the Hood County YMCA (2006) and the Northpark YMCA (2008). Together, the 13 branches of the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth continue the organization’s mission of building strong kids, strong families, and strong communities.