William R. McKenney Memorial Building

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The William R. McKenney Memorial Building is located on at the corner of South Sycamore and Marshall streets in the Poplar Lawn Historic District in the City of Petersburg. The prominent two-story Italianate center-hall building was constructed as a single-family residence in 1859 for John Dodson, the first mayor of Petersburg. In 1924, property owner Clara P. McKenney bequeathed the house to the city for use as a public library. McKenney stipulated that the building must remain in use as a library with spaces designated for Black and White patrons. Upon its opening in 1924, the first floor was reserved for White patrons with Black patrons allowed only in the basement level with a separate entrance. In 1960, the building was the site of a significant sit-in led by nationally prominent Civil Rights leader, the Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker that led to the library’s temporary closure and ultimately resulted in an integrated library and helped spur full integration throughout the city. The symmetrical five-bay McKenney Memorial Building retains sections of its historic stucco, brownstone window surrounds and ornamentation, fenestration patterns, window sash, doors and door surrounds, as well as interior materials such as floors, doors, historic woodwork, plaster ornamentation, marble mantels, and door and window openings. To facilitate its use as a public library, a two-story brick wing was added to the north elevation in 1958.

Last Updated: December 14, 2023

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VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark

For additional information Read

Nomination Form


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