The YMCA of Greater Richmond gained a new branch in 1995 when it merged with the Southside Virginia Family Branch YMCA in Petersburg. This represented a successful culmination of a two-year experiment, testing the feasibility of joining the two organizations.
The YMCA first came to Petersburg in 1875. Rev. Herbert M. Hope, a local cleric, played a major role in organizing and leading the Y in its early days. Initial YMCA programs operated from a site on North Sycamore Street. The Petersburg YMCA received its charter in 1880. Within four years, more than 200 members were participating in programs held on the second floor of the Odd Fellows Hall on Sycamore Street.
Petersburg opened its first permanent Y in 1892. Funded through local donations, the 3-story structure stood on North Sycamore Street. This building burned, apparently about 1911, the same year Petersburg got its first full-time general secretary. Between the time of the fire and the construction of a new building, the Y functioned from temporary quarters at 229 N. Sycamore Street.
The local Y led a building fund campaign in 1912. It raised $75,000 in ten days. Construction began on North Union Street shortly afterward. The new branch opened in 1915. It included residence facilities and a large reading room. This building served as the Petersburg YMCA until 1970.
By the 1960s, Y leadership recognized that the city needed a new structure. The board of directors began planning one in 1968. Construction started at a new site, 120 N. Madison Street in 1969, the current location of the Petersburg Family YMCA. This facility opened in May 1970 and got a new name the following year: Tri-Cities YMCA. This reflected its service area, which included Petersburg, Hopewell and Colonial Heights. The name changed again in 1981 to the YMCA of Southside Virginia, which reflected an even broader service area that encompassed Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George Counties.
Between 1982 and 1996, the Southside Branch undertook a number of renovations and expansions supported by fundraising initiatives. These allowed for facility growth and modernization as well as expansion. Improvements included expanded parking space, playground and youth facilities.
In 1998, three years after formally merging with the Richmond area YMCA, a renovation was supported by $400,000 in donations. The included creation of the 16,000-square-foot Patton Fitness Center, named in honor of local Y benefactor William A. Patton.
In 2018, another massive expansion began on the Petersburg Family YMCA, adding expanded fitness area, elevator access to the suspended walking track and meeting areas. Construction completed in early 2019.
The text was taken from the book "The Richmond YMCA: 150 Years of Innovation and Service for Central Virginia" by Edward R. Crews.