In 1920, the number of railway workers in Capreol far exceeded the number of available accommodations. At a meeting with the CNR and the National Council of the YMCA, town officials discussed the possibility of creating a rooming house where the railway workers could rent rooms. A proposition was made that a Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) be established. As a result of this meeting, it was decided that a Railway YMCA would be built.
YMCAs were popular establishments in railroad towns because they provided rooms, bathing facilities, and "Christian Alternatives" (bible study and lectures) to drinking at the local saloon.
Construction on the Capreol YMCA began immediately. In February of 1920, eight months before the official opening was scheduled to take place, the building caught fire and was gutted. While frustrated by this unfortunate turn of events, reconstruction was swiftly initiated and on October 1, 1920, the YMCA officially opened on Bloor Street in Capreol. Some residents believed that Capreol's Railway YMCA was the finest in all of Canada.
The YMCA was used primarily as a rooming house for railroaders, but its purpose slowly grew to cater to the spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical needs of the entire community.
On May 24, 1921, the First Annual Sports Day was held in the community. In the morning, the day began with five-mile, ten-mile, and twenty-mile marathons along the Capreol-Sudbury highway. By the afternoon, residents were participating in various novelty events and baseball games at the local ball park on the hill by the CNR yards. Finally, the day concluded with a spectacular fireworks display in the evening. Sports Day became a popular annual tradition for the residents of Capreol and even those who didn't participate in the activities had a fabulous time.
The YMCA became the focal point of almost every activity in Capreol and was often the main source of sports enjoyment for many young men. In addition to the sports programs offered, the YMCA would sponsor concerts, parties, banquets, Sunday services, and educational programs for the community. Social and educational committees were developed to reach as many people as possible and to encourage participation in the various activities offered.
A library was soon established in the building and was open to all members of the YMCA. A book club was organized and would hold afternoon meetings to discuss new books or current issues in society.
By 1929, membership in the Capreol YMCA was in decline, partly because a water system was installed in the community. Residents no longer had to use the bathing facilities in the building as they now had running water at home.
When the CNR offices were moved from Capreol to North Bay, between 1926 and 1934, there were fewer men needing rooms at the YMCA.
Over time, the popular marathons were discontinued and by 1958, "Sports Day" was cancelled. With the advent of automobiles, Capreolites would travel to Sudbury in search of entertainment. It seemed that the need for a YMCA in Capreol was coming to an end.
In December of 1978, the YMCA closed its doors and the following year, the CNR decided to demolish the building.
Today, a parking lot exists on the former site of the YMCA. There is no trace of the building that once provided so many wonderful activities to the Town of Capreol.
Material compiled from Capreol: The First 75 Years, 1918-1993.