This “Old Gym” has been a historical landmark in our community for decades. Construction on this facility began in 1939 and was completed in 1940. The project was undertaken by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and provided jobs to a very economically needy area during the Great Depression. At this time, Florida, along with the entire nation, was experiencing the effects of the stock market crash of 1929, which put the economy in severe decline and forced millions of people out of work. The WPA was formed by presidential executive order in April of 1935 to generate jobs for the unemployed. The WPA provided jobs for about 25% of the nation’s unemployed, and really provided an avenue for families in Gilchrist County to survive. This gym is one of the few remaining WPA projects still existing in our area from that time.
Even then, the building was of great significance to the community. At the time, the gym was a state-of-the-art facility. During this time period, few communities could offer the convenience and safety of an indoor recreational area. All of the other teams in the region played on outdoor clay courts. This gym provided sanctuary for boys and girls basketball teams, as well as other physical education students. Until 1970, this was the only school gymnasium in the entire region. Throughout the past 75 years, many generations of this small town's community members have found a safe place to play, exercise, and see old friends. One generation after the next has fond memories of the old gym being a presence in their lives throughout the years. Some still remember the squeak of tennis shoes on the court as today's community leaders played basketball and developed friendships in the old gym during school. Some have fond memories of attending events such as the Prom, or of screaming their way through the old gym when it was decorated as a haunted house for Halloween Carnivals each year. Through the years, the old gym has become a historic legacy that is cherished by many. Whatever the memory, each resident of our community has a special place in their heart for the old building.
The gym was moved to its current location in 2004 through a grant funded by the Florida Department of State Division of Historical Resources and monies raised by the community through commemorative brick sales. The school district secured another grant in 2014 to begin restoring the building to a useable space. In 2015, on-site work began, and was completed by 2016. This historic landmark is now a tangible history lesson for the entire community.
The renovations of the facility have included a walkway to the historic building and a replica of a fountain area originally donated to THS by the Junior Class. Many community members have supported this project by purchasing commemorative bricks to be used in the walkway to the gym. These bricks are being used to pave the path to the gym, and are engraved with names, dates, or phrases selected by those that purchased a brick. We are happy to announce that you have not missed out on the opportunity to be included in this historic project! At this time, we have purchased and placed many bricks, with many more yet to be placed. However, we are still allowing the purchase of bricks for those that missed the chance. We understand the significance and historical value of this long-awaited restoration for our entire community, so we want to be sure that everyone has the opportunity to be included. If you would like to purchase a brick, the cost is $100 and the order form is available HERE or at the front office of TES. In addition, committee member Ms. Jo Smith has shared information on the project and is available to take brick orders. To order, simply fill out the order form, make your check payable to TES, and submit to the front office. Your brick can include up to three lines with 16 characters per line (including spaces). Your brick can be engraved with your business name or family name, can be dedicated to a loved one, can be purchased in honor of a cancer survivor, or can simply be engraved with your name as a supporter of this project. What a great Father’s Day or birthday gift this would be! There are many options, but just be sure not to miss out on this chance to be included in this building’s story.
The Old Gym has now been shored up, made safe, and will be usable very soon. Lead abatement is completed, open wall panels have been replaced, broken windows covered, rails installed, and structural beams placed. The building now includes sprinklers and a fire suppression system, fire department hook-up, and wheelchair accessible ramps. New stair entry with handrails is in place at all doors. New lighting has been installed, and many other repairs are taking place.
If you would like to make a donation toward continued restoration, we will be honoring donors with Bronze, Silver, or Gold level recognition on each section of bleachers in the historic Old Gym. Please contact Mrs. Jo Smith to make an inquire into this opportunity. Mrs. Smith can be reach at (352) 226-0754. Other inquires regarding this project can be directed to the grant administrator Mrs. Patricia Powers at (352) 463-4408 or email@example.com.