Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Staff Council

Admission Building has a long, interesting history

Posted on January 17, 2014

Admission Building Gymnasium

Admission Building Gymnasium

by Alice Santos

The Admission Building was completed in 1903. It was designed as a gymnasium. I find it hard to envision a gym ever being there. If you walk into it today you see lots of offices and people busy at their desks.

I spoke to Wheaton Archivist Zeph Stickney about the building, and she showed me some fascinating pictures. The main room had 42 by 80 feet of space and the walls were lined with exercise equipment. It did not have a second floor at that time, but it did have a running track above the gym. Try to picture a track built around the perimeter of what would have been a second floor. Admissions also had a stage. It was located on the Chapel side of the building about where room 112 is now.  The original design had also included a “modesty roof” with railings for privacy for students who wanted to get a little sun and to smoke. During World War Two, the Mansfield Airport was being used by the armed forces, and the pilots buzzed over the roof of the gym on sunny days so many times that President J. Edgar Park felt it necessary to contact their commander and ask them to stop.

In 1913, a swimming tank was installed. It measured 36 by 12 feet with a depth of 7 feet to 4 feet. To install it, the basement of Admissions, which is now part of Balfour-Hood, was dug out. The bottom of the tank sat where Events and Conferences is now. The swimming tank was installed after the Titanic sunk so that students could learn to swim in case the need would ever arise. All students were required to pass swimming and diving tests before graduating. One of the problems with the tank was that it did not have a filtration system. Faculty often complained that the water was not changed from one semester to the next.

A swimming pool wing was designed and it was installed in 1936 with a filtration system. The new pool was 25 by 60 feet. Wheaton’s synchronized swim team, the Tritons, was formed.  After the Haas Athletic Center opened in 1991, a floor was installed over the pool to create the Pappas Fitness Center.

After the construction of the Clark Recreation Center, the gym was converted to the Admissions Building in 1966. The new second floor had Psychology offices and laboratories. In 1989-1990, the Filene Center for Work and Learning moved into the building until 2006, when they move to the Kollett Center.

Just about every building you look at on the Wheaton campus has had another purpose.  Without the Archives and the fascinating pictures it holds, we would never be able to peek into the past.

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