Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College History

Academics

1903- 

Admissions Center/Pappas Fitness Center/Gymnasium

Completed in 1903, the gymnasium was designed by George Tilden of Rotch and Tilden. President Cole had the plans approved by nationally recognized expert on physical training in colleges and schools Dr. Dudley Sargent of Harvard University, who spoke at the dedication. The Gym was the second building sited according to the campus plan developed by Ralph Adams Cram (who had been apprenticed to Rotch and Tilden at age seventeen). Only the President, Trustees and Mrs. Wheaton knew of this campus plan; to most people, the gym appeared to be quite distant from the rest of the campus.

Funds for a new gymnasium began with a box placed on a table in the Boarding House dining room to receive five-cent fines for tardiness. An 1899 appeal for funds to honor Mrs. Wheaton's 90th birthday raised only a few hundred dollars. The original design included a "modesty roof" with railings, for students who wished to sun themselves. The Athletic Field lay just beyond the College Pines. Its standard size and level ground made it perfect for hockey, a highly popular sport at Wheaton.

The Gymnasium’s main room had clear floor space of 42 x 80 feet. The walls were lined with modern exercise apparatus, and a gallery above the main floor held a running track. A stage for dramatics, with dressing rooms and other equipment was at the north end of the room. When a new rheostat switchboard was installed on the stage in 1938, the Dramatic Association, the Athletic and College Government Associations, and the College shared the cost equally.

The gymnasium contained all the usual equipment of a modern gymnasium, including lockers, dressing rooms, and showers. A swimming tank, a mere 36' x 12', with depths from 7' to 4', was installed in 1913. Students called it the "Dean's Bathtub," because in it they were required to pass swimming and diving tests before graduating. Faculty often complained that the water was not changed from one semester to the next. A Swimming Pool Wing, designed by the firm of Ralph Adams Cram, opened in 1936. The new pool was 25' x 60', with a maximum depth of 9'. Seats for 144 spectators encouraged the birth of Wheaton's synchronized swimming team, "The Tritons." After the Haas Athletic Center opened in 1991, the old swimming pool was floored over to create the Pappas Fitness Center.

For many years, the annual gym meet was held in March. It was the leading event of the athletic year, when the four classes, before a committee of judges from other schools, vied in marching, dumb-bell exercises, Indian club work, and apparatus work. Silver cups were awarded for individual and class events and for the best all-around athlete. The Wheaton teams played Radcliffe, Brown, Jackson, and Sargent in hockey and basketball, and occasionally the swimming and tennis teams also met. Students also participated in keen interclass contests. Each class had their own cheerleader and class color.

The building was converted to the Admission Center in 1966, after construction of the Clark Recreation Center. Psychology offices and laboratories were placed on the second floor. In 1989-1990, the Filene Center for Work & Learning moved into the building; it moved to Kollett Hall in 2006.

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