Historic Sites of Alton – YMCA

YMCA - historic 2

The Alton Young Men’s Christian Association began in 1883. The members used various meeting places until 1907, when an elaborate new facility was completed at the corner of Third and Market Streets. Fire gutted the building in 1914, but it was renovated and expanded in 1915. The first floor contained the pool, showers, and locker room, weight lifting, wrestling, and boxing rooms. The second floor was used for lobby, offices, lounge, meeting rooms, the boys’ department, and the men’s gym. The third and fourth floors contained sleeping rooms for members, local and transient. In 1964, a more modern facility was built on North Henry Street. The YMCA closed in 1984.

YMCA - now

Movie star Clint Walker was born in Hartford, Ill., but spent time in Alton. He worked at Wuellner Construction and worked out at the YMCA before making a name for himself in Hollywood. He starred in the first hour-long western television show, “Cheyenne.”

Publicity shot Cheyenne

Publicity shot for Cheyenne television show

The Alton Evening Telegraph interviewed Walker when he came back for a visit in 1956.

Walker told the Telegraph, “If it hadn’t been for my workouts at the YMCA, I never would have been able to get where I am. A healthy body is the first requirement for success. In Hollywood there is increasing stress on diet and exercise because there are a lot of people waiting to replace anyone who can’t keep up with his job. Actors and actresses have to have working ability. Let’s face it—if you are run down, you are not able to give your best performance.”