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College celebrates rededication of 1894 gym

Date: 10/18/2010


By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Pieces of Springfield College's history were both renewed and found at a ceremony Oct. 13 marking the renovation of the oldest building on campus, Judd Gymnasia.

Springfield College President Dr. Richard Flynn said when the building was dedicated in 1894, James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, spoke at its dedication. Naismith also played the game in the building, which was home to originally one gymnasium, then another in a 1910 addition, along with what was then called "a modern marvel," the McCurdy Natatorium.

Today the restored building houses the alumni offices, the college's archive, classrooms and offices for relations with the YMCA and a new Springfield College Museum.

The new museum will illustrate the college's history, famous graduates and faculty members, historic ties to the YMCA and other achievements.

The museum will be located where the natatorium once was and the floor incorporates some of the tiling used in the pool area.

Flynn said the rededication had special meaning for thousands of alumni who have "fond memories of this building."

He added the renovations were a "demanding and complicated construction process," due to the deadlines the college wanted to meet.

The project cost the college $8 million. Among the building's new features are stained glass windows and about 150 energy-efficient windows replacing many that had been covered with boards. The facility is fully handicap accessible. There are also new plantings, fencing, lighting and other landscaping.

After the ribbon cutting, Flynn led a large group of people into the former East Gym room to witness the opening of a time capsule that was placed in the building when the 1910 addition was made.

Joking that he hoped the time capsule wouldn't prove to be like the disappointing opening of 1930s gangster Al Capone's vault -- a legendary moment in the history of live television -- two men from Erland Construction, the general contractors for the renovation carefully sawed open a copper box.

Flynn said that other time capsules found in buildings on campus during renovations had proven to be disappointments, but this one was a crowd pleaser. The college archivist, Jeff Monseau, carefully removed the packed contests of the box, which included books on physical education by college faculty members, a 1910 yearbook, a collection of photos of Springfield from that time, a copy of the Springfield Republican and a list of donors to the 1910 building.

Monseau said that time capsules could be "hit or miss" propositions as many become damaged over the years. He said the seals on this box were very well done and the box was resting in a location where it didn't become damp.

The contents were a "pleasant surprise."

Of greatest interest to him was the list of donors which will "really add to the story" of the building.

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