1548 East Main Street
Built, circa 1886? or 1907?
He says flop house like it’s a bad thing.
America’s urban streets of the 1800’s and early 1900’s were filled with questionable activities for young men of the day. Richmond’s Shockoe Valley, with its well-known red-light district was a prime example. To protect and save railroad workers and other impressionable youth, a partnership was formed by the major railroad lines and the National YMCA in Cleveland, OH in 1872. (RVA Apartment.com)
YMCA programs for rail employees became its largest effort for blue-collar workers until the decline of the nation’s railway workforce. Rail management and workers liked the Railroad YMCA because it offered employees a decent alternative to flop houses, brothels and saloons.
Richmond’s Railroad YMCA opened in October 1909. It would serve men working on the Chesapeake and Ohio; Seaboard Air Line; Southern; Atlantic Coast Line; and the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac. Located at Main Street Station, the building offered showers and tub baths, a swimming pool, a gym, soap and towels, a reading room, checkers, chess, dominoes and social events.
Sleeping space was available. Also available were a bowling alley, poolroom, auditorium, kitchen and ladies’ parlor. The cost for building and equipping the structure came to about $100,000.
A period brochure promoting membership promised benefiits that included exercise opportunities, career-related courses, entertainment and religious activities. Again, classes appealed to many.
Most courses related directly to railway operations: air brakes for trains, basic math, algebra and geometrical and mechanical drawing
The Railroad YMCA also offered a networking system—known as the Confidential Counsel. Members completed a card, asking for the advice of a physician, lawyer, businessman, minister or YMCA secretary or physical director. The goal was to link men to honest counselors who could guide them through practical and spiritual problems.
The Richmond Railway YMCA even played a key role in the social and family life of area rail employees. Family outings were a regular program feature. In summer 1909, for example, the Y sponsored a family trip to Buckroe Beach. [RYMCA]
By 1944, the Richmond membership grew to as many as 2000 but as automobile travel became more and more popular, the entire Railroad YMCA movement had seen its heyday. The Richmond Branch ceased operation December 31, 1971. (RVA Apartment.com)
Despite the issues regarding the origination date, this building is flipping beautiful, to the point that the stone railing has been reconstructed, as seen above.
City of Richmond says this was built in 1907. RYMCA has a photo that says 1886, so it’s unclear what the actual construction date happens to be. Perhaps the YMCA existed on this site in some form prior to the construction of Main Street Station and the new building. It’s really not clear. This is not helped by the fact that Robert Winthrop’s Architecture in Downtown Richmond starts with Main Street Station and just overlooks the building next door, but alas, you have to draw lines somewhere.
Of course, let us not forget that this building is also a victim of the Insidious Tree-Architecture Conspiracy, a dark cabal of incomparable madness, sneering at the human condition seeking betterment via contemplation of architectural wonder.
(Railroad Branch YMCA is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [RYMCA] The Richmond YMCA 1854 – 2004. Edward R. Crews. 2004.
Must-See RVA! is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!
Wayback RVA — Old Pythian Hall and Mechanics Savings Bank
A Then & Now photo essay of Richmond places from around the area.
The Old Pythian Hall and Mechanics
Savings Bank, Mr. Jno. Mitchell Jr., Pres.
- Souvenir Views Negro Enterprises and Residences, Richmond, Va. D. A. Ferguson & Co. 1907.
- Richmond Planet masthead.
- Logo, Order of the Knights of Pythias.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 3.
- [RTD] John Mitchell Jr. Richmond Times-Dispatch. Michael Paul Williams February 21, 1996.
- 311 North Fourth Street.
John Mitchell Jr. was aptly described as “a man who would walk into the jaws of death to serve his race.” Mitchell – newspaper editor, entrepreneur, city councilman and candidate for governor – was one of the most respected black leaders of his day. [RTD]
A fascinating individual. The Shockoe Examiner has an interesting post from 2012 about Mitchell’s grave in Evergreen Cemetery. Alas for the old bank building, it’s former location now rests under the Richmond Convention Center.
(Old Pythian Hall and Mechanics Savings Bank is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
Black Bear’s Visit to Richmond Comes to a Safe End
No picnic baskets, bears, dogs, cats, or humans were harmed in today’s adventure.
A black bear decided to explore Richmond today. First spotted on the Northbank Trail he later headed into town. Previous reports earlier in the week had the bear up near Pony Pasture. The picture above is from RACC Instagram which reported on the sedation and transportation of the bear.
We just received a call about a bear-and it really was a bear. Sometimes we laugh and arrive on scene with a giant Rottweiler, but nope-this was a real bear. We named him Fuzzy Wuzzy. Shout out to @richmondpolice for helping keep us safe and to @virginiawildlife for tranquilizing and relocating the bear out of the City!
Here he is in town.
Majority of Virginia to enter Phase Two of reopening; Richmond to remain in Phase One for now
Richmond and Northern Virginia will remain in Phase One while surrounding localities can now ease restrictions on gatherings, indoor dining, and other uses.
Governor Ralph Northam today signed Executive Order Sixty-Five and presented the second phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to continue safely and gradually easing public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19. The Governor also amended Executive Order Sixty-One directing Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond to remain in Phase One.
Most of Virginia is expected to enter Phase Two on Friday, June 5, as key statewide health metrics continue to show positive signs. Virginia’s hospital bed capacity remains stable, the percentage of people hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test is trending downward, no hospitals are reporting PPE shortages, and the percent of positive tests continues to trend downward as testing increases. The Governor and Virginia public health officials will continue to evaluate data based on the indicators laid out in April.
“Because of our collective efforts, Virginia has made tremendous progress in fighting this virus and saved lives,” said Governor Northam. “Please continue to wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. Virginians have all sacrificed to help contain the spread of this disease, and we must remain vigilant as we take steps to slowly lift restrictions in our Commonwealth.”
Executive Order Sixty-Five modifies public health guidance in Executive Order Sixty-One and Sixty-Two and establishes guidelines for Phase Two. Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond entered Phase One on Friday, May 29, and will remain in Phase One to allow for additional monitoring of health data. Accomack County delayed reopening due to outbreaks in poultry plants, which have largely been controlled through rigorous testing. Accomack County will move to Phase Two with the rest of the Commonwealth, on Friday, June 5.
Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures.
Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions. These venues include museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor concert, sporting, and performing arts venues. Swimming pools may also expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving, and swim instruction.
The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will also remain closed in Phase Two.
Phase Two guidelines for specific sectors can be found here. Phase One guidelines sectors are available here. Visit virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia for more information and answers to frequently asked questions.
The full text of Executive Order Sixty-Five and Order of Public Health Emergency Six is available here.
The full text of amended Executive Order Sixty-One can be found here.