to raise funds for a new Y.V.C.A. building began in 1910. The goal of
this campaign was to raise $100,000. The goal was reached due to a number
of large donations including an anonymous $35,000 bequest, a $5,000
from Mr. and Mrs. Richard Pretlow Ernst and a $5,000 donation from the
estate of Bradford Shinkle. Many smaller donations were given by hundreds
of Covington residents.
A site at the southeast corner of Madison and Pike Streets was selected
for the new building. The site was preferred because it was located
in the heart of Covington’s business district. Before construction
could begin, the buildings on the site had to be demolished, including
the old Magnolia Hotel. Construction began in the summer of 1911. The
completed structure offered many amenities that had not been previously
available. The brick building with stone trimmings stood three-stories
tall and faced Madison Avenue. The main floor (2nd floor) contained
a formal lobby with marble floors and walls. Other facilities located
main level included: offices, a large reading room complete with a fireplace,
a billiards room, a correspondence room for businessmen, a dinning hall
and kitchen. The third floor contained 39 private dormitory rooms, each
complete with a bed, dresser, table, two chairs, and closet. This floor
also housed a large bathroom with four showers, sinks and toilet facilities.
The basement level contained locker rooms and shower facilities as well
as a swimming pool measuring 21 x 60’. The facility also featured
a large gymnasium complete with an elevated running track. The people
of Covington could be justly proud of their new Y.M.C.A. building.
The new Y.M.C.A. building was officially dedicated on the weekend of
January 30, 1913. The principal speaker on the occasion was Richard
Pretlow Ernst, the president of the Covington Y.M.C.A. since 1892. The
ceremonies also included an open house for the people of Northern Kentucky.
The entry of the United States in the First World War hampered the activities
of the Covington Y.M.C.A. Up until this time, the facilities were only
open to men and boys. The war, however, brought about a great decline
in attendance and membership. This led the officials of the Y.M.C.A.
to open membership in the group to women and girls in 1918. In order
to accommodate women’s activities, the boys department was moved
to another portion of the building and their previous space was remodeled
to serve as locker and washrooms for the ladies.
During the 1920s, membership at the Y.M.C.A. increased. The officers
decided that an addition to the building would be necessary. In the
spring of 1929, a drive was conducted to raise $150,000 for this addition.
The plans called for an addition to the east side of the 1913 building
that would house a women’s parlor, a memorial hall (seating capacity
of 180), a stage for theatrical performances, clubrooms and a second
The $150,000 goal, however, was not met. Instead, the plans had to be
scaled back. To make things even more difficult, the great stock market
crash of 1929 occurred within a few months of the drive. Despite these
setbacks, the expansion project continued.
An important addition to the personnel came aboard in the 1920s. In
1926, Willard Wade moved to Covington to take the position of physical
director of the Covington Y.M.C.A. Between 1936 and 1938 Wade served
as assistant secretary of the Greensboro N.C. Y.M.C.A. He returned to
Covington in 1939 to take the position of general secretary of the Covington
Y.M.C.A. Wade remained in this position into the 1950s. In recognition
of his many years of service, the board agreed to name the Covington
Y.M.C.A. the Wade Branch.
The post World War II era was not as kind to the Covington Y.M.C.A.
Many more opportunities were available to children and adults for social
and recreational activities. In addition, Covington’s declining
population due to urban flight resulted in fewer people using the Y.M.C.A.
facilities. At a meeting of the five Y.M.C.A. braches of Northern Kentucky
on April 1, 1987, the group agreed to merge with the Y.M.C.A. of Cincinnati
and Hamilton County in Ohio. At the same time, the group also agreed
to sell the Wade Y.M.C. Branch on Madison Avenue in Covington. The building
was sold for about $200,000 to the George Budig, president of the George
The loss of the Covington facilities on Madison Avenue did not result
in the withdrawal of the Y.M.C.A. from the city. Instead, smaller office
space was found and programs and activities were conducted at schools,
in community centers and in city parks.
Kentucky Post, December 7, 1910, p. 1,July 24, 1911, p. 2, January
22, 1913, p. 3, January 31, 1913, p. 10, February 3, 1913, p. 3, June
19, 1918, p. 3, June 27, 1918, p. 1, May 26, 1929, p. 3, June 11, 1929,
p. 4, August 5, 1929, p. 1, April 2, 1987, p. 1K, April 24, 1987, p.
1K and July 1, 1987, p. 3K; Kentucky Times-Star, April 21, 1955, p.