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The Record, November 1901

For years past, the authorities of St. John’s were contemplating the erection of a spacious gymnasium, in which they recognized an indispensable adjunct to a first class educational institution, one which they thought doubly necessary in our severe northern climate. Various causes, however, combined to make the erection of a suitable gymnasium building impracticable for the time being.

With the opening of the twentieth century, however, it was decided to put off the matter no longer. Some time last January, Mr. Charles. R. Aldrich, the well known Minneapolis architect, was instructed to prepare preliminary draughts for a suitable gymnasium building and submit them for approval. The submitted draughts were taken under consideration some time later, and various changes decided upon. The plan made by Mr. Aldrich was finally accepted during the early part of March, that for the new fire proof library building having been accepted previously. Material was purchased immediately. During the early part of May excavations were made for the foundations of the gymnasium and the masons began laying the granite foundations on May 14, which were completed about a month later. In August the brick work was finished. The scarcity of carpenters combined with the additional work made necessary through the erection of a new station building at Collegeville by the University, caused considerable delay in the work on the gymnasium. In the early days of October, however, the outside work on the building was completed. Although the interior of the building is not yet completed, it is in a sufficiently advanced stage to be used by the students during unpleasant weather. 

As will be seen from the engraving in this issue of The Record which, by the way, does not do full justice to the beauty of the building, the new gymnasium presents a castle like appearance of great symmetry and beauty. It is constructed of the best quality of Menomonee pressed brick upon a massive granite foundations. The extreme length and breadth of the building are 120 and 93 feet respectively. The total height from the ground to the top on the 16 ft. flagstaff is 67 ft.

The interior has been arranged with a special view of serving both as a gymnasium and a recreation building and is universally acknowledged to be a model of convenience and of adaptation to the needs of an institution like St. John’s . The main building (63 x 114 ft.) is divided into two large halls.  The one to the south is 30 ft. wide, 60 ft. long and 22 ft. high; it will serve as a gymnasium and recreation room for the small boys. The larger hall is 60 x 80 ft. on the ground and 22 ft. high, with an elevated track running around the entire hall at an elevation of 9 ft. The room will be used by the larger students and will afford ample space for gymnastics and athletics. Being entirely free from pillars and other obstructions it is an ideal place for handball, basketball, indoor baseball, tennis and other games; the running track serving admirably as a grand stand to accommodate the spectators. The two large hall of the main building are separated by a solid brick wall, so constructed that in case the number of students will greatly increase, it can be removed without impairing the strength of the building in the least, thus providing an immense track hall 60 x 110 ft. and 22 ft. from floor to ceiling.

The entrance to the small boys’ gymnasium is at the south end of the main building, whilst the larger students enter at the center of the eastern front. A passage, 8 ft. wide and 32 ft. long, extends from the main entrance to the track hall.  To the right, nearest the entrance, is the office of the physical director, whilst to the left a winding stairway ascends to the upper floor, in the circular tower. Beyond the directors office is a large room, 18 x 25 ft. in which suitable provisions will be made for various parlor games. Passing through this room, one enters the smokers’ room, the only place within the building in which the older students, who have obtained due permission, may enjoy a quiet smoke. On the south side of the main passage are the bath and toilet rooms, arranged most conveniently and in accordance with approved sanitary principles. A large basement, 20 x 90 ft. in dimensions, under the front portion of the building will accommodate two bowling alleys. The second floor of the front contains a billiard room, 18 x 25 ft. in dimensions, from which access is gained to the running track in the main hall.

The entire building is well lighted and well ventilated. The immense steam plant of the institution furnishes the steam in large underground conduits to heat the entire gymnasium to a comfortable temperature even in the coldest weather. The current for the electric light is led from the electric plant of the University to the office of the physical director, whence it is distributed to the various parts of the building. Within the office are located the switches for all the lights, thus effectually preventing any annoyance through meddling with the lights. The electric light is evenly distributed throughout the large halls by means of incandescent clusters attached to the ceiling, in a manner that they can be reached with ease by the electricians, whilst they are so protected that there is no danger of breakage, through accident or carelessness. This mode of attachment is a novel one, especially devised for our gymnasium.

The entire building and all its details are admirably adapted to the purpose for which they are intended, and the distinguished architect, Mr. Aldrich of Minneapolis, may justly take pride in this edifice. St. John’s University, however, is to be congratulated upon the fact that now it possesses a gymnasium which is not only a beautiful piece of architecture, but also one of the finest gymnasiums in the entire Northwest.