Special Collections Research Center

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10. Gymnasium and Armory

Photo of gymnasium
and armory

This picture features the gymnasium to the right. Although oscured by the trees, the gymnasium displayed "Buell Armory" above the entrance for passersby. The main section of the building is labeled "Alumni Hall." These buildings look much the same on the outside as they did in this photograph taken around 1909. Two sharply-dressed gentlemen stand in the right archway of Alumni Hall.

Photo of gymnasium

This photograph shows a basketball backboard and goal on the right. This gymnasium is where University of Kentucky basketball began. The women's team of school year 1902-3 played the first full intercollegiate schedule (Cone, 1989). Interested spectators at the basketball games would stand along the balcony. The gymnasium was designed to make use of outside light. Also, notice the clock partly obscured by ropes. Perhaps the clock was used to time the games.

In 1900, the General Assembly of the state of Kentucky appropriated $60,000 for this building and Patterson Hall (Cone, 1989). The building, begun in 1901 and completed in 1902, cost $30,000 and was advertised widely as "heated by steam and lighted by electricity throughout" (Lafferty, 193?). Students were envisioning important uses for the building even before it was completed. A student petition to dance in the armory or the gymnasium was brought before the trustees who agreed to allow the dances. Not only was there time for dancing, but the building could accommodate departments of physical education for men and women and allow both to play basketball. Its uses were still not exhausted - wrestlers, gymnasts, and students involved in other indoor sports used the gymnasium for the practice of their respective sports (Cone, 1989). The uses did not end with sporting activities, however. "Four literary societies, two each for men and women, conducted debate and oratory sessions in rooms in Barker Hall and Main Building" (Cone, 1989). Of course, the building was also used as an armory and headquarters for the Department of Military Science (Lafferty, 193?).

Despite the usefulness of the Gymnasium and Armory which is evidenced by the varied use of the building, the gymnasium hindered the comeuppance of basketball as a spectator sport. The gymnasium was so small that, for all practical purposes, no spectators could attend the basketball games. Cone in The University of Kentucky: A Pictorial History describes the gymnasium as a crackerbox that hindered the basketball teams' ambitions. Not until 1924 would a new gymnasium, Alumni Gymnasium, be built (Cone, 1989).


  • Buell Armory was a workshop for recruits who learned, among other skills, truck maintenance and repair in 1918 during World War I (Cone, 1989).
  • In the fall of 1918, the gymnasium was turned into an infirmary when the influenza epidemic struck the University's campus.(Cone, 1989)
  • During the 1930s, the upper floor housed the YMCA (Lafferty, 193?).
  • To see the variety of University sports today, go to the University of Kentucky athletics page.
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