Severance Gymnasium


Severance Gymnasium, 1911-1912

For several years, the students had been complaining about the need for a new modern gymnasium. The old Gymnasium Hall was now well over twenty years old, and the interior support beams and posts made it indadequate as a place to safely play indoor games, such as basketball.

The new Severance Gymnasium was dedicated on May 17, 1912. The gymnasium had cost $120,000 to complete and was the gift of Louis H. Severance, one of the leading benefactors to the College. The gymnasium was considered to be one of the finest built in the state and was believed to be modeled on the Smith College Gymnasium.


Interior View, Severance Gymnasium, 1911-1912

The building consisted of offices, examination rooms, reading and resting rooms connected with the lobby, private rooms for visiting teams, a great floor for basketball furnished as well for all sorts of exercises, a running track above the basketball court, a turf-floored baseball court 50 by 60 feet and 25 feet high, shower baths, locker rooms, and lavatories upstairs and down. A swimming pool in the lower level was 50 by 25 feet, 4 feet deep at one end and 8 feet deep at the other. In addition, there was a special locker room for the faculty with a private stairway to their own Turkish bath deparment in the basement


Girls Swimming in Severance Pool, 1918-1919

Once Severance Gymnasium was completed, the college hired the first two Directors of Physical Education for Men and Women. Emery Bauer and Miss Berenice Wikoff both arrived from Oho State University for the 1912-1913 academic year, and they would oversee separate programs for the men and women. During that first year, the two departments gave Wooster its first annual gymnasium exhibitions.

The College now required two credits of physical education for graduation.  Interestingly, there had been no provision made for the women to use the new gymnasium. Finally, in February, the trustees gave the women exclusive use of the gymnasium on Thursdays. Eventually, hours and days available to the women would expand, but the men continued to have the majority of the time available for use of the facilities outside of classes.

Severance Gymnasium would eventually be out grown, and a new gymnaisum would be completed in 1973. From 1973 until 1996, it housed the studio art program of the Department of Art. In 1979, it had additional renovations to allow it to house the Office of Publications. Eventually, the building was expanded in 1997 to include the Ebert Art Center. Today, Severance Art Building  houses the art studio, art history, and art museum programs.