First Gymnasiums

Spurred by the development of the new gymnasium movement, and by alumnus David Dudley Field’s prodding, Williams’ first gymnasium was constructed in 1851 at a cost of $700. The students themselves raised the $500 to furnish the equipment: rings, trapeze, ladders, bars, a horse, etc. The students also ran the establishment: “We let them manage it which they do better than we could,” said President Mark Hopkins. A frame structure located on the site of the future Lansing Chapman rink, the building sported a lean-to addition that housed student bathing facilities–actually tin-set tubs with cold running water. The gym burned to the ground in February 1852. Raised on the same spot, a second structure was also destroyed by fire in 1858.

Perhaps tired of fires that kept demolishing their facilities, the students next constructed a brick gymnasium. Located at the corner of Spring and Main Streets, it was completed in 1859. Two years later, the College paid off the students’ gymnasium debt and assumed ownership of the building. As soon as the first Goodrich Hall was built, however, the brick gym lapsed into use as a service building and, for a number of years, was also used to store the hose used by the student fire brigade. The gym was torn down in 1928 to make way for the addition to Lasell.