Waterman Gymnasium

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After years of effort by students to gain a physical education facility on the University of Michigan campus, Waterman Gymnasium was completed and ready for use in 1894. The Regents notes record reports about a gymnasium facility as early as 1870. Financial problems with the state legislature quashed all early attempts to procure special funding for such a facility.

In 1891, Joshua W. Waterman gave the University a gift of $20,000.00 toward a gymnasium, with the attached condition that other donors be sought out to match the grant. By 1894, President Angell reported that a total, including the Waterman gift, of $42,705.00 was available, to which was added $6,095.00 raised through previous student efforts. By the time the construction was completed, it was necessary for the Regents to add $14,000.00 to meet the total cost of $65,134.14.

The architect for the University's first gymnasium was E.W. Arnold. The building was brick over a structural iron framework and included skylights in the ceiling. The interior dimensions of the gymnasium were 150 x 90 feet, with a shallow wing along the south side providing necessary office space. A balcony contained an indoor running track and locker room facilities were provided in the basement.

The rapid growth of the University in the early twentieth century necessitated an addition extending the length of the gymnasium to 248 feet, which was completed in 1916. Plans for provision of a swimming pool at the same time fell through because of funding shortages. Use of the building declined throughout the twentieth century, heightened by the move of the intercollegiate athletic program to a new athletic campus south of the main campus and by the construction of the Yost Field House in 1923. The deteriorating Waterman and Barbour Gymnasium complex was demolished in 1977, making way for a needed expansion to the adjacent Chemistry Building.

Source: The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey; Walter A. Donnelly, Wilfred B. Shaw, and Ruth W. Gjelsness, editors; Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 1958.