Harry Barton Mary Channing Coleman North Carolina College for Women Outdoor Gymnasium

The Outdoor Gymnasium

Outdoor Gymnasium

Physical education was an important part of the curriculum of the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG). The program was expanded in the early 1920s to include gymnastics, outdoor sports, and folk and aesthetic dancing. New space was desperately needed to provide a sheltered area for outdoor sports and additional room for indoor activities. Previous space for indoor gymnastics had included a room in the Administration Building (later named the Foust Building), the Curry Building Chapel, and the basement of Spencer Dormitory.

When Mary Channing Coleman became the director of the physical education department in 1921, she rejuvenated the program and new athletic space was immediately planned. An outdoor gymnasium was affordable and would allow more space for athletics until a larger structure could be built. This new gymnasium was designed by local architect Harry Barton in 1922, at a cost of $9,871.83. It was a large wooden structure, measuring approximately 91 feet long, 51 feet wide and 20 feet to the top of the eaves.

Student Skaters in the Outdoor Gymnasium, 1942 (p. 206)

In preparation for inclement weather, the Gymnasium was equipped with canvas “drops” which could completely enclose the building. In addition to physical education classes, the Outdoor Gymnasium became a popular spot for basketball, roller-skating, and rainy day activities. Located west of Shaw Residence Hall, the outdoor gymnasium was completed three years before the construction of the Rosenthal Gymnasium.  It would soon be overshadowed by the new gymnasium which was hailed as one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the country. Rosenthal Gymnasium included a swimming pool, an indoor golf room, a mirrored dance studio, and a bowling alley. The outdoor space was used during bad weather and for overflow physical education activities until 1964 when it was torn down.

Article by Kathelene McCarty Smith

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