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Second Ward Gymnasium

Architectural Description



2nd Ward High School Gymnasium



The Second Ward Gymnasium is a tall (30') masonry-clad building with a flat roof.  The building sits on relatively flat land on a fairly compact urban school campus.  The building fronts onto a paved parking lot and is connected to the rest of the school buildings by a covered walkway.  The gymnasium is the eastern-most building on the campus, which is composed of three other more recent one-story buildings. The walls of the gymnasium are constructed of masonry blocks veneered with brick laid in Common Flemish Bond, a bond with five rows of stretchers separated by a single row of alternating headers and stretchers.    Steel posts set in the masonry walls support a steel roof frame.  Built in 1949, the building exhibits a distinctly Modernist architectural style.  Typical of the Modernist Style is the building's starkness, its lack of gratuitous ornamentation.   The building's facade, the west elevation, features a large expanse of blank wall.  Fenestration on the facade is limited.  The facade features two simple door openings set near the corners of the building.  The doors are sheltered with simple flat steel awnings.  The wall is topped with a ribbon of twenty-four tall replacement windows that stretches the width of the building.   Ribbon-windows are a typical element of the Modernist Style.  The ribbon is composed of twenty-four individual metal-framed windows containing translucent fiberglass panels, with a single awning sash.  The original windows were multi-light sash windows.  A covered walkway metal roof has been attached to southern end of the facade to connect the gymnasium with the newer school buildings.


These plans were produced in 1979 and reflect the current condition of the building, including the replacement windows.



Detail of southern corner of facade.


Common Flemish Bond



The north elevation is generally blank with the major exception of a one-story, flat-roofed, masonry ticket-booth/vestibule projecting from the elevation's eastern corner.  The vestibule originally featured a recessed entrance sheltered by partial-width, shallow recessed porches on the north and east elevations, and a narrow box-office on the north elevation that extended to the edge of the roofline.  The porches have been filled-in with two sets of metal doors and brick walls, laid in a running bond, to expand the interior space of the vestibule.  The box office features a small ticket window. The only other feature of the north elevation is a simple wooden and sheet-metal band that caps the stark masonry wall.   




Gymnasium vestibule/box-office.  The metal doors are located in an area that was once an open recessed porch.  The narrow box-office to the right of the doors is original.



A two-story wing projects from, and is centered on, the east elevation.  Originally fronting on a city street (South Myers Street ), the east elevation features a symmetrical design.  The large projecting wing dominates the elevation and features the same architectural elements found on the principal section of the building.  The wing is topped with a ribbon of twenty-two replacement windows.  The windows are short, with an operable sash awning set below a short fixed panel.  Located high in the one-story-level is a second ribbon of short windows, set-in 4' from the sides of the wing.  Other than the windows and a simple wood and metal cap the elevation is blank.  The wing is 24' deep, and the upper ribbon of windows wraps around the north-east corner, and extends the width of the north elevation of the wing.  The lack of a "solid" wall underneath the wing's flat roof  gives the impression that the roof is floating above the wing.  The roof is actually supported by steel posts that are integrated into the frames of the windows.  The northern one-story vestibule obscures much of the wing's north elevation and is balanced on the wing's south elevation by a much smaller one-story vestibule that has retained its original recessed entrance, now containing replacement metal doors.



The east elevation viewed from the south.


Recessed entrance to southern vestibule.



The south elevation was designed as the least public of the elevations.  The elevation is dominated by a tall, windowless, flat-roofed wing that houses a stage.  Unlike the still frame of the principal section of the gymnasium, the stage-wing appears to be a solely masonry structure.  The basement of the stage wing houses a boiler room, with a tall, square and unadorned chimney rising along the west side of the wing.  Low, one-story wings on either side of the stage-wing connect, via hallways, the stage to the principal section of the gymnasium, and also contain hallways.


Chimney viewed from the facade.

One-story wing on the south elevation that contains a bathroom and connects the stage with the principal section of the gymnasium.  Note that the Common Flemish Bond brickwork is utilized on all of the exterior walls.





The interior of the Second Ward High School Gymnasium has retained a high degree of integrity and is in good condition.  Built in 1949, the exposed steel framing and uninterrupted ribbons of windows that flood the interior with light reflect the Modernist Style.  But the building's Modernist design stands in contrast to some of the traditional building element found in the gymnasium.



The tall wing that projects from the east elevation houses poured-in-place concrete bleachers.  Steel posts as seen above and below support the weight of the roof.  The posts are both freestanding (above), and encased in the masonry curtain walls (below).  The exterior wall behind the bleachers utilizes the steel-encased-in-masonry design.  



The steel in the exterior walls support simple, open steel trusses.  This design also allows for the, virtually uninterrupted ribbons of windows high in the east and west walls.



The above photo shows the an edge of the wooden roof deck that was originally exposed from below.  At some point most of the exposed wooden roof decks were obscured with drop-panel ceilings.  The roof decks were constructed using tongue-and-groove lumber.  If this building had been built much later than 1949, it is likely that a more modern and hi-tech deck material would have been used.


Set above the roof deck are the replacement windows, filled with translucent panels.



The concrete bleachers and steps were formed in place.


The stage is concealed behind a recent wall.  However, the outline of the stage opening and the projecting raised stage floor are still apparent. 



Detail of projecting stage floor.  The original hardwood gymnasium floor features an unusual ventilated baseboard that allows the large expanse of wooden floor to expand and breathe.



This photograph of the stage ceiling may represent the original appearance of the gymnasium's primary ceiling.


The wooden interior doors exhibit construction typical for the first half of the twentieth century.  The double-doors that enter into the main gymnasium space exhibit a minimal Modernist design, while the secondary doors feature a traditional five-panel design.



The solid concrete bleacher are supported by massive steel beams.  The space under the bleachers contains the locker and shower rooms.  This photograph demonstrates the masonry block construction of the walls, which are veneered with brick on the exterior.