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The Long Creek Gymnasium

The Long Creek Gymnasium is a tall, one-story brick veneered frame building with a side-gabled barrel roof.   The building is notable for its utilitarian simplicity.  It faces east and is located on a public school campus consisting of seven buildings.  The school fronts Beatties Ford Road, and the gymnasium sits at the rear of the cluster of school buildings, approximately 500 feet from the road.  Open land containing athletic fields and woods is located behind the building.  The gymnasium was built in 1934 and is the oldest building on the campus.  Two other buildings on the campus date from the 1930s: the 1938 Agricultural Building and a small ca. 1934 hipped-roof concession/restroom building.  

The facade is simple and symmetrical, a large brick wall laid in running bond with just seven openings.  The two entrances are located adjacent to the side elevations.  The double-door openings contain replacement slab doors.  A steel lintel supports a simple course of soldier bricks over each door.  Recent cantilevered metal awnings shelter the doorways.  Masonry stoops give access to the doorways.  Recent landscaping and sidewalks may obscure steps at the southern entrance.  Five evenly-spaced roughly square window opening are located high in the facade. Modern fixed metal sash windows have been installed.  While it may appear that replacement  windows were too small for the openings and that the framing and siding were added, this configuration appears to be the original design.  Instead of a lintel carrying courses of brick above the window, which is typical, this building features a small section of siding above each window.  The siding, now replaced or covered with modern metal siding, hides the deep framing of the roof trusses.   The windows rest on simple angled brick sills.  The barrel roof has been covered with modern standing-seam metal panels.  The soffit has been replaced with a metal gutter system with large downspouts.  None of the changes to the gymnasium significantly alters the design or character of the building.

The south elevation, like the facade, is starkly simple.  The side elevation well demonstrates the curve of the barrel roof.  The two entrances that pierce the elevation are like those found on the facade.  Doors have been replaced with modern slab doors.  Only the eastern doorway is sheltered with an awing.  A ramp with a metal handrail has also been added to this doorway.  The building's rubble rock foundation is visible on this elevation.  The foundation corners and piers appear to have been laid first, with curtain walls attaching the piers.  The elevation is symmetrical except for a narrow flue that is located between the facade and the easternmost doorway.  The top of the flue is missing.  A solid brick rear addition with an integrated chimney is built flush with the south addition.  The north elevation is nearly identical to the south elevation with two entrances and a similar flue.  The rear wing of a late-twentieth-century school building was built close the north elevation of the gym, partly obscuring that elevation. 

 

The gymnasium's rear elevation is less simple than the other elevations.  The rear fenestration of the principal section of the building is similar to that found on the facade with the exception of the center window, which has been omitted because of a square exterior chimney centered on the rear elevation.  The rear elevation features a partial-width, one-story wing with a shed roof.  The wing is one bay deep.  The north elevation of the rear wing features a single wide window opening with a simple brick sill.  The opening is filled with a painted panel.  The west elevation of the rear wing features three door openings, each bordered by a square window opening.  All of the door and window openings have been infilled with brick, except for the center door.   Above the rear wing the wall of the principal section of the gymnasium has no brick veneer, and instead is covered with metal siding.  This configuration, like the siding above the windows, negated the need for steel lintels or beams to carry the load of bricks laid above openings or the wooden roof framing of the rear wing.  The south elevation of the rear wing is obscured by the shed-roof solid brick addition that was built adjacent to the principal south elevation.  This brick addition was built for a furnace and was laid in common bond.  It is windowless and features a metal vent and a large brick flue topped with a metal cap.  

Interior

The simplicity of the exterior of the Long Creek Gymnasium is not reflected in the interior.  Typical for a gymnasium, the interior consists of one large room that occupies all of the principal section of the building.  The vast majority of the interior is wood.  Wooden studs, exposed high in the curved gables, are sheathed with diagonal boards.  The utilitarian nature of the building's construction is most apparent in the exposed sheathing.  The boards are not uniform in width; large uneven joints exist between most boards; many of the boards are cracked or with rough edges; and the butts of the board are cut square and do not meet over studs.  The studs in the gable are set on an unusual top plate composed of five 1" boards laid flat.  The top plates in the side walls are covered with boards.

The walls are covered with horizontal tongue-and-groove boards of various widths.  More finished than the diagonal sheathing, the wall sections are not uniform, with large cracks and joints.  Doors and windows are simply trimmed with plain boards.  The roof framing is supported by tall 6"x8" posts that are integrated into the framing and protrude slightly from the wall..  Trusses and other roof framing rest directly on the posts.  

Four large curved trusses support the barrel roof.  The most notable feature of the trusses is the webbing that criss-crosses forming a lattice pattern in the trusses between the upper and lower chords.  While the web pattern may at first seem irregular, wood structural engineering expert Bryan T. Readling (1) contends that the truss design is a sophisticated, professional design, but one that could be duplicated using basic materials and relatively unskilled labor. The lower chord (truss member) is composed of 2x10" lumber nailed and bolted together.  The curved top chord is composed of layers of 2" material laid flat.  The trusses are braced to the posts with simple 2x10" brackets, and are braced to each other with pairs of long X-braces  The trusses support 2x10" purlins that run the width of the building and are braced with 1" thick X-bracing in the middle of their spans.  

The interior of the Long Creek Gymnasium has a high degree of integrity.  The gymnasium features site-built wooden basketball goals with tongue-and-groove board backboards.  Other original features include a brick fireplace at courtside in the center of the rear wall, and exposed brick sections in the gable walls near the front entrances.  These brick sections originally contained fittings for stove pipes, indicating that the building may have originally been heated with freestanding wood or coal burning stoves. 

Fireplace at courtside in the gymnasium

 Early 20th century wood panel doors give access to the rear wing that now contains bathrooms.  Original uses of the rear wing may have included a concessions, or dressing rooms.  The wooden gym floor may be original.

The rough workmanship of the interior woodwork, the simple materials, and the sophistication of the truss designs well illustrate the unusual arrangement under which the building was constructed, with the local community providing much of the labor and the materials.   The inclusion of a fireplace in the design would indicate that the building was planned to serve not just school students, but the wider community as well.

Directly to the north of the gymnasium is a stone grandstand that may date to the same period.  The rubble laid stonework is similar to that found in the foundation of the gymnasium.  The grandstand is composed of six levels of seats/steps with a stone cheek walls and a rear retaining wall.  The steps are laid in a mild curvilinear fashion.

To the east of the stone grandstand is a nearly square pyramidal-roofed brick building.  Because of the buildings small size, its lack of a chimney or flue, and its many window and door openings, the building was likely either a concession stand, or restrooms.  The building may date to the 1930s.  The brick is laid in common bond.  The soffit appears to have been replaced, and many of the building's original openings have been infilled with brick. 

 

1)  Bryan T. Readling is a structural engineer specializing in wooden structures and wooden building systems.  Interviewed on September 25, 2008.