‘Old Gym’ being torn down
The exterior of the building shows signs of neglect. Windows are boarded up; vines are growing on the side of the walls.
But there’s a lot of history included in that brick, rustic building.
The iconic building on the campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, is being taken down.
On June 1, S&G Excavating, located in Terre Haute, began tearing down the old gymnasium. It is estimated that the demolition will take approximately three weeks.
The gymnasium officially opened in 1910, according to the brochure, “Historic Architecture of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods: A self-guided walking tour,” which was provided by the Sisters of Providence archives department.
In addition, the natatorium was added to the building in 1923. The pool was officially closed in 2003.
In 2007, asbestos was removed from the building and the Sisters of Providence considered tearing it down at that time. However, Providence Hall was being remodeled so the old gymnasium became the perfect spot for storage.
Sister Lisa Stallings, who graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1974, said she played pick-up basketball and volleyball games in that old gym. She added she used the pool quite a bit as well.
“The locker room still smells the same way it did, at least in my memory,” she said.
However, Sister Lisa said tearing down the building was the right thing to do.
“It’s absolutely a necessity. It is in disrepair,” Sister Lisa said. “This is a time when we can do it and need to do it.”
According to the college’s website, the earliest recorded basketball game to take place in the gymnasium featured Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College hosting Indiana State Normal College – now Indiana State University. The contest took place in 1920.
The game is considered perhaps the first collegiate game to feature two Indiana women’s team. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods won, 21-6.
In 1991, Deanna Bradley came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from Delta Junction, Alaska, for an interview to become the college’s basketball coach and athletic director.
When she arrived, she admitted she was shocked by the specs of the court.
“When I saw the facilities, I thought ‘oh my word,’” she said.
The Pomeroys played basketball in the gymnasium until 2000. The team hosted games at various places before settling on the old Clinton High School gymnasium for nearly a decade. The school opened its new gymnasium, the Jeanne Knoerle Center, in anticipation of its 2014-15 basketball season.
Incidentally, the athletic teams are named the Pomeroys in memory of Sister Mary Joseph Pomeroy, who played on that squad that defeated Indiana State Normal College in 1920.
Bradley canceled all athletics beginning in December 1992 for further evaluation. She said the school needed to begin offering scholarships in order to build athletic programs and increase enrollment.
With the help of then-president Sister Barbara Doherty, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College began offering scholarships to athletes in 1994.
As a result, Bradley said 30 percent of the college’s enrollment are student-athletes.
“Sister Barbara was really instrumental to get our scholarship program going,” Bradley said. “But the first couple of years were pretty rough. We ended up with kids who just wanted to play. We weren’t offering much, basically just a drop in the bucket.”
Despite being able to offer scholarships and get athletes to come to the college to play, Bradley said there were many challenges, and most of them were due to facilities – meaning other schools found it difficult to come to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to play a game. The court is not regulation size.
“We were blessed to have teams come play us,” Bradley said. “Every single game, somebody stepped out of bounds. And it was always funny to watch opponents just walk in the door and see the looks on their faces.”