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Judd Gymnasia (RG 127)

This photograph shows the stonework of Springfield College's East Gymnasium gable. The stonework is engraved with the date "1894", when the building was built, and some decorative leaves. The gable is also covered in ivy.

Judd Gymnasia

On November 12th, 1893 the trustees authorized $18,000 to begin building a gymnasium for the YMCA Training School. The building would be the first building constructed for the school on the newly purchased property along Lake Massasoit. Bidding for the gymnasium contract closed on April 27th, 1894 and Morrissey and Shea’s Corporation bid was accepted for $18,700. The gymnasium’s corner stone was laid on May 12th, 1894. The corner stone lying was a private affair with only faculty, students, and others of interest attended. John McFethries, chairman of the Building Committee, laid the corner stone and Oliver C. Morse made the address saying the “building to be erected is of the first of its kind in the world,” and Dr. Luther Gulick, who according to articles written on the building was heavily involved in its design, said that “its management should always be abreast and ahead of its time.” The building was completed in September and the formal opening was held on October 26th, 1894. The inside was decorated with flags to show the school’s international nature and the dedicator address was given by Dr. G. Stanley Hall, President of Clark University. He dedicated the building to science and health and called the gymnasium the “Temple of Hygeia.” The New York Times called the gymnasium “the best of its kind in the world.” Dr. James Naismith, the creator of Basketball and faculty member at the school, was also part of the opening ceremonies. He presented the school with a British flag and a few appropriate words on behalf of the Canadian Students. Naismith would teach classes and coach the school’s basketball teams through spring of 1895 in the gym before leaving for Denver and eventually the University of Kansas.

On March 10th, 1910 the trustees authorized the building of a new gymnasium and a swimming pool. Architect Edward Lippincott Tilton was acquired to design the new Gymnasium. Tilton also would also design the Marsh Memorial Library on campus. The new gymnasium was known as the “west” gymnasium and the old gymnasium as “east” gymnasium. The corner stone was laid on June 10th, 1910, as part of the school’s 25th anniversary celebrations. Dr. James McCurdy laid the cornerstone as while as saying a few words. The new building began being used in February of 1911, but was not completely finished. Upon its completion, the dedication took place a year later on February 6th, 1912. It was said that “the most notable feature is the ventilation equipment. This is doubtless the best in the country, if not the world and best of all it works.” The building was said to “not only meet the specifications, but surpass them.” The top two floors of the tower that sits between the “east” and “west” gymnasiums was not completed until June of 1926.

Over the years this second Gymnasium has been known under many names. The gymnasium was known as west gymnasium until 1953, when the trustees voted that it be named “The Judd Gymnasium” in recognition of the distinctive and unique contributions which Coach Leslie Judd made over his career at Springfield. In 1998 the Gymnasium was renamed the Ruth Evans Gymnasium for her work as a pioneer in physical education and the first Director of Physical Education for Women at Springfield College. In 2010, the Gymnasium received its current name as the Student Union West.

Construction on McCurdy natatorium began in 1912, as is reflected in the tiles still seen on its floor. Construction was completed and the pool was formally presented on April 29th, 1913. Both dates are often used to refer to the age of the building. The natatorium was given by Mr. Herbert L. Pratt, President of Standard Oil and also giver of Pratt Field. It was erected at a cost of $23,000 and was a request of Mr. Pratt that the swimming pool be named in honor of Dr. McCurdy, head of the physical department, succeeding Dr. Gulick. Located between the east and west gymnasiums, the pool was 24 x 60 feet and 1 inch long – the 1 inch, so, according to McCurdy, there could be no dispute over swimming records. It was also equipped with, at the time, a state of the art filter tanks and heater system. After many years of meritorious service, including serving as the pool used by Bill Yorzyk, who won the gold medal in 200 m Butterfly competition in the 1956 Olympics, and the setting for many experiments by Dr. Peter Karpovich, McCurdy Natatorium was closed on March 18th, 1968. The swimming pool was replaced by Linkletter Natatorium. The Natatorium was remodeled and has served as a dance studio, weight room, the college bookstore and finally, in the spring of 2011, as the Springfield College History Museum which also includes the YMCA Hall of Fame.

The entire building was renovated in 2010, with occupancy beginning in September of 2010. A formal Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to open Judd Gymnasia was held on October 13, 2010. Another ceremony was held on May 19, 2011 as a Dedication of the Stitzer YMCA Center that makes up a part of the facilities in the building, including the use of the East Gymnasium as a conference center for the YMCA and the Office of YMCA Relations and the YMCA Hall of Fame in the Springfield College History Museum. On May 18th, 2012, East Gymnasium was dedicated as the Harold C. Smith room in honor of Harold C. Smith and his continued support of Springfield College and the YMCA.

Building again renovated in 2018 and renamed as the Stitzer Welcome Center, housing the Admissions Offices. This included the renovation of East Gymnasium as the Harold C. Smith Presentation Room. Room was sound proofed and benches were added and room used as presentation room for prospective students as well as other college functions.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection documents the history of Judd Gymnasia, the first building on the current campus of Springfield College. Contained within are newspaper articles, photographs, slides, videos, old building meeting minutes, books, floor plans, and various memos, letters and general information on the ventilation and pumping systems used in the building. The time capsule, a sealed copper box, from the cornerstone of West Gymnasium, now Student Union West, and the materials from the time capsule are also included. Photographs take up the vast majority of the collection. Also included are various writings on the ventilation system of West Gymnasium and dedication materials from most of the various dedications that have taken place in the building since it was built in 1894. Materials from the time capsule include books and school publications, including materials from the 25th anniversary of the founding of the school celebrations, a class yearbook, and materials about the city of Springfield.