A Brief History of the Recreation Room of Petersburg Home for Ladies
Author: Tim Brinkley
It was the year 1968. Apollo 8 orbited the moon, the Boeing 747 took its first flight, and the Ladies Home was seeking to expand, placing particular emphasis on a space for crafts and group activities. Today we affectionately refer to 312 Clinton Street as “the employee lot” which is used for employee parking and guest overflow parking. However, in 1968 312 Clinton Street was home to a small cottage which, during the warmer weather, was used as a crafting house. Due to the detached location and poor heating, the cottage was only used for a brief period of the Home’s history while plans for a Recreation Room were developed.
After acquisitioning support from Carneal and Johnson of Richmond, the architectural firm which designed the mainportion of the Jefferson Street building, plans were placed in front of a building committee who worked closely with the City of Petersburg to enact a zoning change on Clinton Street, thus affording the Ladies’ Home the opportunity to forge ahead with the expansion.
In traditional Petersburg Home for Ladies style, the grand opening of this new expansion was a festive celebration. Residents, staff and the Petersburg Home for Ladies Board of Directors met for a costume party on Halloween evening 1971, officially commissioning the new space for community use.
Different from the original building, this new expansion boasted of central air conditioning, a luxury which would not be installed in the original building until 1979. This new addition also included a large laundry area, a room known as “the maid’s rest”, a locker room for seasonal storage, and utility basement storage.
The first television set purchased by Petersburg Home for Ladies was for the sitting room in the Fillmore Street property in the year 1951 with a second set being purchased for a Harrison Street property in the year 1954. One can imagine the ladies sitting in the newly built Recreation Room casually watching television, or listening to the Steinway console model upright piano, purchased brand new only a few years prior in 1967, played by residents and staff alike. Perhaps some were enjoying ice cream, graciously provided by Allied Chemical in a quantity “as much as the freezer would hold.”
While the Recreation Room of Petersburg Home for Ladies has seen its share of change throughout the years, the 1971 expansion has consistently been a refuge of joy, creativity and connection for all who enter; through singers, bingo games, catered meals, rummage sales, church services, innumerable social gatherings and even video games played on Nintendo Wii.
Today we enter the Recreation Room looking at a Keurig Coffee Machine and a flat screen television complete with web cameras and echo cancelling speakers, which were installed in 2019 to afford residents the ability to connect with local organizations while social distancing during the COVID19 pandemic. We stream Netflix, Prime Video and watch exercise class on YouTube. We heat food in the microwave and adjust the temperature in the room on a digital thermostat. Each of these measures is yet another page in the story. Just as it was in 1925, innovation leads the way opening the door to write the next chapter in the history of Petersburg Home for Ladies.