Skip to Main Content

Basketball Hall of Fame Building (RG 147)

This is a slide of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame sign, with a woman beside it, on Springfield College's Campus. The woman, who we think was a Springfield College student, is standing next to the sign with her head turned towards it. The woman standing next to the sign provides perspective on the size of the Hall of Fame sign which, being taller than the woman appears to have been of sufficient magnitude. This photograph was taken in 1973.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Building Records

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame first opened to the public on February 18, 1968 as an independent entity on the Springfield College campus. The original Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was constructed on the Springfield College Campus because of the college’s deep connections to the sport of basketball. After all, it was where Dr. James Naismith, a faculty member at Springfield College, in 1891 first hung up the peach baskets that were the forerunners of today’s hoops. In addition, along with Naismith, Dr. Edward Hickox was the driving force behind the Hall’s creation and many members of the College’s faculty have sat on national rules committee since the creation of basketball until today.

Ground was broken for the construction of the Basketball Hall of Fame on September 11, 1959. Then, on November 6, 1961, a Basketball Commemoration Day was held in the Memorial Field House at Springfield College to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of James Naismith, as well as the 70th anniversary of the birth of the game, which would be in December. More than 2,500 guests gathered on the campus to pay tribute to the popular sport, including former players, coaches, and officials. The Hall of Fame Cornerstone Ceremony was held on this same day.

Although ground was broken for the Hall of Fame in 1959, the building was not completed until l968. Mostly this was due to the difficulty of securing the funds necessary to build the hall. The estimated cost of the first wing of the building was $400,000 and the total estimated cost of the Basketball Hall of Fame was $1,156,400. Originally the first wing of the building was hoped to be completed on November 6, 1961, the same day as the Commemoration Ceremony, a goal that was not realized. In a May 1963 monthly report and news bulletin for the Hall of Fame, money still needed to be donated in hopes of opening the Naismith Wing of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame before the end of 1964. The total amount raised at that time was only $195,000, meaning that not even half of the money needed to complete first phase had been raised. The money was finally raised, and, at long last, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame was completed in 1968. On Sunday, February 18, 1968 the building was opened to the public. A special “Pre-view” Open House was offered on Saturday, February 17th for news, media, local donors, and all members of Springfield College faculty and staff.

Interestingly enough, the Hall of Fame was built in the shape of a basketball court: rectangular. The building housed a living history of basketball, in which a museum, library, auditorium, gymnasium, Honors Court for inductees, a film storage room, and display booths were constructed. The heart of the building was the Honors Court. Each basketball pioneer had their own ten foot high window made of Lucite. The shape and style of these windows, known as lancet windows, were common architectural features of gothic churches and cathedrals. The Honors Court was created using lancet windows and 'stained-glass' which have strong religious associations, dim lighting, and an intimate setting in effort to create a chapel-like setting. This effort was made not only to honor Hall of Famers but also to honor Naismith's connection to his religion. The room also contained a statue of Dr. Naismith and a case exhibiting the first rules of the game of basketball. When the Basketball Hall of Fame was moved to downtown Springfield, these windows were sent to the institutions associated with the Inductees. Springfield College’s Inductees windows are held in the Physical Education Complex, outside of Blake Arena.

The building also housed a replica of the original court where the first game was played, the School for Christian Workers, as Springfield College was originally known when it was founded in 1885, building on the corner of State and Sherman streets in Springfield, Massachusetts. The court was based on the original dimensions of the gymnasium, though scaled down in size. It had a circular hole in the ceiling that acted as a balcony where visitors could look down on the court from the floor above. The court included the progression of how basketball hoops changed over time, including the peach baskets. Nearby, lining the sidelines of the court, were exhibits, including one with the uniforms worn by the Original Boston Celtics, an Olympic Games Basketball Championships exhibit, and other memorabilia. The museum itself contained souvenirs, and notes about the founder, former players, coaches, teams, and institutions.

The Edward J. and Gena G. Hickox library was also housed inside the building. It contained complete historical coverage of the game to the present time as well as books, magazines, papers, and other printed materials pertaining to basketball for the purpose of providing a working library for students of the game.

In an article dated February 16, 1969, nearly a year after the Hall of Fame had been finished; about 16,500 visitors came through the turnstiles. In fact, 1,198 people visited the Hall of Fame on the first day it was open to the public. Also, $72,000 had been collected over the year, contributing to the Hall of Fame’s success.

The Hall of Fame building was reverted to Springfield College in 1985 when the original building outgrew its quarters. The Hall of Fame’s Board elected to move the museum to a site adjacent to U.S. Interstate Highway, I-91, on the banks of the Connecticut River in downtown Springfield. This $13 million project was completed in June, 1985. The third and present Hall of Fame was built directly next this building, opening in 2002.

After the Hall of Fame left, Springfield College President Frank S. Falcone announced his plan to spend $1.6 million to renovate the former Hall of Fame into a center for integrated instruction, research, and community service for those in Health Related Professions (HRPs). The renovated building was completed in September, 1988 and dedicated on April 13, 1989. At the ceremony, leading donors were recognized, including Trustee Thomas B. Wheeler, President of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, spoke at the dedication. The building is now called the Allied Health Sciences Center.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection documents the Basketball Hall of Fame Building from its conception in the 1940’s to its dedication in 1968 and its life as the Basketball Hall of Fame until it was closed in 1985 and eventually changed into the Allied Health Sciences Center (bulk: 1960s-1985). There are some materials from the second and third Basketball Hall of Fame. Materials include correspondence, news releases, newspaper articles, magazine articles, reports, architect drawings, pamphlets, brochures, print materials, photographs, slides, and memorabilia. The vast majority of documents come from Springfield College, but there are materials that come from the Basketball Hall of Fame and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).

The collection contains a variety of materials including photographs of the original Architect Sketches by Munson and Mallis, Inc. of Springfield, Mass. The sketches are contained in a portfolio prepared by them. Of interest are some sketches and materials, including print cards, of the original design of the Basketball Hall of Fame done around 1940-1941. Other items of interest include a lifetime certificate of Membership to the Basketball Hall of Fame for Robert R. Thompson, NABC lists of membership up to 1992, and a Naismith Memorial Fund binder containing donation information to the fund up to 1945. In addition. there are some pictures of the Hall, both outside and inside the hall taken at various time over its lifetime.

Also of interest are mailings for fundraising and updating supporters of the Hall of Fame. This includes a document outlining the NABC Resolution on the Hall of Fame, dated March 24, 1966, complete Annual Report Mailings (with original mailing envelopes) from 1952-1963 (some missing – see folder list), and some official Basketball Hall of Fame Souvenir Booklets, including a 1982 one that is signed by some of the inductees to the Hall. There are materials from the 100th anniversary celebration in 1991 at the Basketball Hall of Fame, including invitations, programs, the commemorative stamp and Springfield College specific information including special invitations sent by Springfield College, the seating arrangements, and what appears to be a copy of the words spoken by Springfield College President Dr. Frank Falcone at the celebration. There are multiple envelopes with the 1991 commemorative US postage stamp sent out by the Springfield College Sports News Bureau on the day of its issuance.

Of note are a group of materials from the November 6, 1961 Commemoration Day celebrations, the hundredth anniversary of Naismith’s birth. This includes invitations, tickets, a copy of a speech given on the day, programs, the commemorative stamp that was released in honor of his birthday, and black and white, silent, 16mm film of the events (including showing what was put into the cornerstone of the building). Two of the programs are signed by the attendees of Commemoration Day, including one that is framed and was donated by Dave Behrend, Class of 1964. The signatures include Edward Hickox, James S. Naismith, and Ray Kaighn among many others (each program is signed by different people).

Finally, there are many folders containing newspaper articles, from the 1940s through the 1990s. The bulk of this falls in the 1980s (1981-1983, especially) during the moving of the Basketball Hall of Fame from the campus of Springfield College to downtown Springfield. This includes a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, the bulk of which is from 1956 through the construction of the hall in 1968. It is unknown who collected these materials, but it was most likely someone in the marketing and communications office at Springfield College. Most of the articles have to do with the fund-raising and the construction of the building, a long and tumultuous experience.