Borden Memorial Abbot Gymnasium

At the north end of the Common stood a plain stone building called the carpenter shop. It was later the residence of Professor and Mrs. Stowe, and now forms part of the Phillips Inn. The purpose for which it had been built proves that the Andover authorities early caught some dim foreshadowing of modern theories of physical development. The plain statement that a healthy body makes a healthy mind and a healthy soul, would probably have been considered in the Andover of those days as rank heresy. Indeed, the body and the soul were often looked upon as the two ends of a seesaw, so to speak, of which, when one was up, the other was necessarily down. It was vaguely felt, however, that the students, in spite of the fact that they had to take care of their own rooms, and although their services were requisitioned on occasion to chop Professor Porter's wood, or to mow some other professor's hay, yet, take the year through, did not get a sufficient amount of exercise. Mr. Bartlett, himself a man of iron frame and iron nerves, with a common sense that told him how much these had contributed to his success, could easily understand that physical strength would increase a man's effectiveness, even in the holy ministry. A project adapted to strengthen the bodies of the students he readily agreed to further; and a stone shell of a building was erected, and within its great bare walls there were carried benches, tools, lumber, and all the et cetera that go to make up a regular carpenter shop.

Thither were led --- for I am sure very few ever went there of their own accord --- the Juniors, Middlers, and Seniors, to grow into the full stature of a glorious, rounded manhood. And what do you suppose the authorities chose as among the chief objects, in the construction of which the theological students, weary, perhaps, from a lecture on the future of the wicked after death, should relax their minds and invigorate their bodies? You will hardly believe me when I assure you that they were set to making---coffins! There you have a theological consistency worthy of John Calvin himself! (Sarah Stuart Robbins. Old Andover Days. Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1908.)

Mrs. Robbins in her interesting book, Old Andover Days, speaks of Phillips Inn as made for a Students' Workshop. She gives the impression that the chief industry practiced there was making coffins---but in fact, any mechanical trade was there pursued by any one acquainted with it. Before the formation of the Education Society, this building was erected to enable theological students to earn the means of meeting their expenses. When factories supplanted their industry, and improved means of transporting goods came, their work ceased.

I still have my doll's cradle which was made there by a student named Whitney, and my rolling-pin, which still serves in my pantry, was made there by some theological craftsman.

For many years the building was disused, till it occurred to the trustees to convert it into a gymnasium, for the students and the boys in Phillips Academy. (Susan E. Jackson. Reminiscences of Andover. Andover: Andover Press, 1914.)

On the night of 30 January 1818, the first Academy building, which had been built in 1786, was destroyed by fire. Two months later, to replace it, subscription papers were sent out making a vigorous appeal for funds. In its stead the Trustees erected an "elegant brick building" which became known as the "classic hall," or the Brick Academy. From an athletic point of view, the significant feature of its construction was that the upper room of the new structure was set aside for "gymnastics and declamations. There is some indication that this stern and pious Principal, Adams, was not completely insensitive to physical frolicking. One of his students wrote, "Once when a very little lad, I was greatly surprised to see my grave teacher laughing heartily at the antics of another youngster in the gymnasium. I whispered encouragingly to myself, 'He is not so terrible after all.' (Fred H. Harrison Athletics for All. Andover: Phillips Academy. 1983.)

It was during the Taylor administration at the midpoint of the century that the "Theologues" (Seminary students) converted Stowe House into a true gymnasium. The "Cads" (Academy students) could use it by paying a fee of one dollar. In a letter to his mother, one student described the new addition:

There is apparatus there for the development of every part of the body. It is a favorite resort of the students, and will undoubtedly add years to the lives of the students here. I spend the hour from 4-5 in the afternoon there in leaping, running, jumping, swimming, etc. I possess as yet little skill but make up in my zeal my want in that respect. (Ibid.)

Six months later, in November 1863, the Mirror again editorialized on "The American Educational System":

And it may not be out of place to speak of the cultivation of the physical nature in any colleges. Where a few years ago this was almost entirely neglected, in the earnestness to cultivate the mind, now you will no longer see so many students worn out by hard study, and by taking too little exercise.

There was some indication at the end of the period that student opinion was beginning to have some influence on the administration, at least on the Trustees. In 1859 they authorized the Treasurer, under the advice of a committee, to expend a sum not to exceed fifty dollars to provide apparatus for providing exercises for the students of the Academy.(53) Six years later, after the end of the Civil War, they voted "that when the Old Brick Academy is no longer needed for the purpose of recitations, the same be surrendered to a Gymnasium Committee to be fitted up as a gymnasium for the students of the Theological Seminary and the Academy." With the fitting out of part of the Brick Academy (now Bulfinch Hall) as a gymnasium in 1867, the students had passed their first milestone on the way to a full program of physical education and game sports. (Ibid.)

It is impossible to gloss over lightly the significance of that beginning at this particular juncture in the history of the school. The "Cads" and "Theologues" both had become much more sensitive to the relationship between physical exercise and health. The conversion of the Brick Academy to a gymnasium indicated that the Trustees recognized the validity of the students' demand for a program of individual body care and development. Despite a slow start, the new facility was used extensively in the next four decades, attendance largely dependent on the weather and the attraction of outdoor activities. Students had a place where they could work out; the baseball team used it for pre-season training; and although bowling never did survive as a sport at Phillips Academy, five others were fostered in this "new gym": boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, fencing, and indoor track. As early as March 1869, the Mirror reported an exhibition by the leading gymnasts of the school and lauded their skill and ability. (Ibid.)

. As the gymnasium became increasingly the hub of extracurricular activity, except for coasting and skating in decent outdoor weather, the scope of the exhibition increased to include as many events as possible, even an indoor tug-of-war. Added attractions were Abbot spectators, who usually attended en masse, and the musical accompaniment of the Phillips band. The enlarged scope of the Winter Tournament was illustrated in the program of events for Saturday, 7 January 1885:

By two o'clock the room was filled, except the gallery, which was reserved for the young ladies of Abbot Academy, who came in shortly after the tournament opened. Promptly at half past two the Phillips Orchestra, under the leadership of Mr. Clifford, opened the entertainment by choice selections, which were well encored by the appreciative audience.

There then followed a series of boxing and wrestling bouts in all weight categories. After an intermission the gymnastic program included the rings, Indian club swinging, the hitch and kick (pommel horse or side horse), the horizontal bar, the parallel bars, and tumbling. The final event was the tug-of-war between P. A. 1886 and P. A. 1888, won by the former. The program closed with the presentation of medals to the winners, while the orchestra "discovered sweet music." (Ibid.)

Indeed, the "condition of the gym" question for the next twenty years was to be a major bone of contention between faculty and students; the school continued to provide professional instructors in 1884 and 1885, but it refused to improve the plumbing by providing toilets and showers. "At last we have a gym instructor, and the possibility of bathrooms in the immediate future." Student protest assumed a much harsher tone when it was learned that Exeter was planning to spend fifty thousand dollars to build a new gymnasium. "Where are the gym bathrooms promised for this year?" The bathing problem was temporarily resolved through the action taken by the Athletic Association in the fall of 1887; they raised $170. to put in shower baths. Nevertheless, the hue and cry for a completely new facility would not be put down: "Repairs have been made on the school building and commons but, alas, nothing for the dirty, rickety gym."(12) "The conditions there are a disgrace. The walls are chipping and the apparatus is unsafe. It is improperly heated, and Track and Gymnastics are restricted by lack of a running track and an adequate gymnasium. Please, Faculty, do something." The continued failure to elicit more tangible support from the Trustees and the Administration led the Editors of the Phillipian to take the matter in hand. In January 1889 a strong editorial outlined a plan to procure funds for a badly needed building adequate to meet the growing physical and recreational needs of the students. A general sollicitation of money from among all those interested in Phillips Academy---students, faculty, alumni, and Trustees---would be undertaken by the Phillipian Board with Trustee approval and student help. The fund drive would continue until such time as there was sufficient money to build the new gym. Even though in the first twenty-five months there was raised a sum of only $1500., the plan eventually led to the construction of the Borden Gymnasium in 1902. It had been a long hard struggle! (Ibid.)

On the morning of Tuesday, June 23, 1896, the Brick Academy was gutted by fire, only the walls remaining intact. The roof and cupola were at once restored, but it was evident that it would be undesirable to attempt to use it again for athletic purposes. The only practicable solution of the problem confronting the authorities was to make an effort to raise money for the new Gymnasium. Largely through Dr. Bancroft's personal enterprise $50,000 was finally secured, and the long-desired Gymnasium was started and named after its principal donor, Mr. Matthew C. D. Borden of Fall River. (Claude Fuess. An Old New England School. A History of Phillips Academy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1917.)

Before the close of Dr. Bancroft's administration a concerted effort had been made to raise money for a new Gymnasium. The building was made possible through the generous gift of $20,000 by Matthew Chaloner Borden (1842-1912), a Fall River manufacturer. This sum, added to other funds which had been collected, was quite sufficient for constructing what was described by Judge Bishop in 1903 as "the finest and most complete gymnasium possessed by any secondary school in the country." When the building was opened for use in the winter of 1902, the boys had at last what they had prayed for during two decades: a suitable place for indoor exercise, recreation, and bathing. The beautiful swimming-pool which was added to the Gymnasium in the form of a wing in 1911 was made possible through the enterprise of the boys themselves. In an active campaign extending over several years they raised among the student body and friends of the school a sum large enough to start the work, and the Trustees lent the remainder of the amount required. The entire cost was not far from $30,000. (Ibid.)

Matthew Chaloner Durfee Borden, fifth son of Colonel Richard and Abby Walker (Durfee) Borden, was born at Fall River, Massachusetts, July 18, 1842, and died at his summer home in Rumson, Monmouth county, New Jersey, May 27, 1912. He attended Fall River public schools and a school at Auburndale, Massachusetts, prepared for college at Phillips-Andover Academy, and was graduated from Yale University, class of 1864. In 1865 he began his marvelous business career, his first position being as a clerk with Lathrop, Luddingtoil & Company, dry goods jobbers of New York City. He soon left that house for Low, Harriman & Company, a commission firm, acting as selling agents for the American Print Works, of Fall River, of which Colonel Richard Borden was president. The print works from its small beginning in 1834 had grown to be a large corporation, but two disastrous fires during the winter of 1867 caused the works to become involved in financial difficulties, and finally, in 1879, to make an assignment. In 1880 Matthew C. D. Borden re-organized the business, which was then incorporated as the American Printing Company, with a capital of $300,000. Its history since has been one of rapid and substantial growth, and under the efficient Borden management stands today the largest business of its kind in the United States. [...]

Though Mr. Borden exhibited in marked degree the business qualifications inherited from worthy sires, he possessed a strong and very distinct individuality. His mind was open and his attitude was never intolerant, but he made his own decisions, and never wavered in their execution. He considered great chances as a matter of course in handling great affairs, and faced his responsibilities without flinching. With confidence in his own judgment, he took steps which, in the opinion of all his associates, seemed certain to result in disaster, and the result invariably justified his action. Altogether he was one of the most remarkable of the long list of remarkable business men who have made this country great. While he was familiar with all details, he had a very great grasp of mind and a keen foresight. Like all broad-minded men, he was charitable in the widest sense, most of his benefactions were kept under cover. This could not be accomplished in some cases, such as a gift of $100,000 to the charities of Fall River, on the occasion of starting Mill No. 4, October 17, 1895. This gift was made, as he expressed it, "in grateful recognition of a kind Providence that has so favored me." Of this gift $15,000 went to the building fund of the Home for Aged People, smaller sums to other institutions, and the bulk for the erection of a home for the Boys' Club, a magnificent building, with accommodations for 2,000 members, containing a theatre, gymnasium, swimming pool, library and bowling alleys. This is used exclusively by street boys for social and educational purposes, and is by far the finest institution of its kind in the United States. In 1906 Mr. Borden made extensive additions to this building for the use of men. Though a very busy man, caring for enormous interests, he still found time for recreation, and had many interests in life. Fond of outdoor sports, he was an enthusiastic yachtsman and horse owner. His famous steam yacht, the "Sovereign," is now owned by the United States Government, under the name of the "Scorpion." Mr. Borden's home was for many years in New York, and he was associated with many sporting clubs of that section, including the Seawanhaka Yacht Club, South Side Sportsmen's Club, New York Yacht Club, New York Athletic Club, Larchmont Yacht, and Jeykll Island Clubs. He was also interested in literature and art, and possessed a library and art gallery surpassed in value and excellence by very few in this country. More than a million dollars worth of paintings were hung in his gallery, and his library contained many volumes of unusual interest. A friend of education, he was a ready contributor to its advancement, and among his beneficiaries was his alma mater---Yale, which received from him a quarter of a million dollars. For six years he was park commissioner of New York City. He was interested in many of its business concerns: a director of the Lincoln National, Astor Place, and Manhattan Company banks, New York Security and Trust Company, and the Lincoln Safe Deposit Company. He was also a member of many social organizations of the city, including the following clubs: Union League, Republican, Metropolitan, Players,' Merchants,' Down Town, Yale Alumni, Riding, Rumson Country and other clubs. He was a member of the New England Society, Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, and a trustee of the Young Men's Christian Association. (website)

The completed facility was officially opened on March 22, 1902, with a basketball game against the Harvard Freshmen. Unfortunately, Principal Bancroft did not live long enough to participate in the realization of his efforts. There were 15 shower baths, 360 lockers, full provision for a race-track on the mezzanine level and basketball courts as well as all other indoor exercises. The apparatus for the facility was selected by Dr. W. G. Anderson of Yale from the stock of A. G. Spaulding & Co.. The first of many Senior Promenade Concerts was held here on June 17, 1903. (Robert A. Domingue. Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. An Illustrated History of the Property (including Abbot Academy). Wilmington, MA: RAD Publishing, 1990.)

Phillips Academy was also keeping pace with the increased national interest in sports and leisure-time activities. The addition to the Borden Gymnasium was nearing completion by December 1952, and plans were underway to dedicate it formally the following February.(4) The new construction was to be christened Memorial Gymnasium in memory of Andover alumni killed in World War II.(5) The Borden space had been redesigned by the architects Eggers and Higgins to tie in with the new building. The most impressive feature of the new construction was the size of the main floor. Its 165 foot by 102 foot dimensions allowed space for three parallel practice basketball courts with a movable partition which changed the direction of these courts and sealed off the varsity and J.V. areas for game competitions. Seats could be lowered from the side walls of the varsity courts to accommodate eleven hundred and forty spectators. The east side of these stands could also be reversed to add five hundred and twenty places to the permanent swimming pool bleachers, which contained two hundred and fifty seats.(6) The swimming pool itself was enlarged from four to six lanes and held one hundred and twenty-five thousand gallons of water. In addition, a separate diving pool had been constructed. This facility was 40 feet by 25 feet, 11 feet deep and contained both a one-meter and a three-meter diving board.(7) Andover was the first secondary school to have a separate diving pool; other important features of the new gymnasium were the wrestling room, the addition of five squash courts, and the expanded locker space, which was at last adequate for the entire school.(8) The completion of the squash courts allowed the inclusion of this sport in the winter term athletic program for the first time in the school's history. (Fred H. Harrison Athletics for All. Andover: Phillips Academy. 1983.)

In many ways the climax of the Kemper administration came with the Andover Program, initiated in 1959 and completed in the early 1960's. Up to this point in the history of the School, there had never been a program so carefully researched, so efficiently organized, and so successfully realized. Yet it was only the climax to a building program that had begun in the early 1950's. When John Kemper took office, it was clear that the School needed a new gymnasium. The Borden Gym, considered the most modern of athletic facilities when it was built in 1902, could no longer meet the School's needs. It was too small, its equipment was antiquated, and it could not provide adequate facilities for boys interested in particular sports, especially in the winter. For years student polls in the yearbook had placed a new gymnasium in first place as Andover's greatest need, and shortly after John Kemper became Headmaster, the students attempted to show that they meant business in this matter by raising about five thousand dollars toward a new gym. This was impressive evidence that the need was real, and in 1951 the Trustees took over and before long the building became a reality. There was no attempt to launch a special drive to raise the sum needed---more than one million dollars. A substantial number of gifts came in voluntarily, and the Trustees voted to borrow from the endowment for any additional funds needed.

Antiquated as it was, the Borden Gymnasium was still a useful building; to tear it down would be a real waste of facilities. As a result it was decided to tie the new facility into the old building. This presented some architectural problems, for Borden was Victorian while the new building was to be modern; but after a certain amount of flak the problem was happily resolved. In similar fashion it was decided not to build a completely new swimming pool but to enlarge and remodel the old one. When the building was completed, it more than met the hopes of those who had worked so long and hard to get it erected. The most striking feature of what was christened the Memorial Gymnasium, in memory of Andover graduates killed in World War II, was the main floor, large enough to contain three basketball courts. Previously, the single court in Borden had severely limited the number of boys who could engage in this sport. Movable partitions made it possible to divide the main floor into play areas of different size and gave flexibility to the physical education program. Another striking feature of the new building was the movable stands for spectators. Facing one way, they would command the basketball courts; turned around and facing the other way they would command the swimming pool. Over one thousand spectators could be accommodated---again a vast improvement over Borden, where only a few hundred could be crowded in. The swimming pool itself was enlarged from four to six lanes, and a special diving pool was added at one end, with a high board as well as a low board. In addition there were squash courts, wrestling rooms, and, perhaps most important, locker space adequate for the whole School. The building was dedicated in February 1953, with Admiral William Halsey giving the address. (Frederick S. Allis, Jr. Youth from Every Quarter. Andover: Phillips Academy. 1979.)

Miss McKeen in her first catalogue, 1859-60, expressed her ideal of an all-round development of the pupil, "It is our effort so to educate girls that they may bring a vigorous and accomplished mind in a healthful body to the work of life." It is recorded that the "New Gymnastics", superseding Calisthenics, was introduced in 1862. Two years later, girls were required to come provided with a gymnastic suit.

From 1866 to 1869 Mary Donald was director of gymnastics. She had prepared herself for the position by several months of training at Dr. Dio Lewis's school in Lexington, a sort of home normal school of gymnastics, doing pioneer work.

An early officer in the Abbot Athletic Association, which was formed shortly before 1900, writes:

"The closing days of the 'gay nineties' blossomed for Abbot into organized outdoor sports, spring Field Days, with popular songs and cheers, and class books, featuring pictures of the various 'teams'." There was as yet only one tennis court, near Sherman Cottage, but outdoor basketball began. 'Gym work' was carried on in what was later the Domestic Science laboratory. After the spring vacation the enthusiasts for sports began to practice for Field Day. It was all voluntary. Then the Athletic Association came into being under the direction of one of the Faculty." (Jane B. Carpenter. Abbot in the Early Days, 1959.)

Much of the expansion and development of the Department had been made possible by a "long-desired change" made in 1916 when the teaching of elocution, heretofore linked with that of gymnastics, was given over to a separate instructor. A definite departure from past policies in physical education, though one in accordance with the trend of the time, was the increased emphasis on the aesthetic element. Folk dancing had been introduced shortly before the beginning of the new administration. It may here be mentioned that sixty years before, under one of the first woman principals, the Virginia Reel and the Spanish Dance had their place in "Calisthenics" Now dancing became an integral part of the School program. (Ibid.)

When McKeen Hall was erected in 1905, the assembly room, which for many years had doubled as a gymnasium, was named Davis Hall as it was financed by George G. Davis in memory of his father, George L. Davis, whom he had succeeded as Trustee. (Ibid.)

But it led to the initiation in 1912 of a rotating Visiting or Advisory Committee of alumnae, appointed by the Association President, consisting of a few representative alumnae of different periods, who came at the invitation of the Principal and were shown the everyday life and workings of the School. Those who came showed a lively interest and an appreciation of the welcoming hospitality and sometimes, as had been planned, made constructive criticisms, as for example in a statement printed in the Treasurer's Report of 1913-14 in addition to the mention of minor matters, "The larger question of gymnasium and a special gymnastic teacher is still in our thoughts." The special teacher was appointed in 1916, but it was forty years before the building became a reality! The George Ezra Abbot Gymnasium was dedicated in February, 1956. (Ibid.)

Following the merger with Abbot Academy, extensive renovations were made to facilitate the presence of the girl's activities by adding the Abbot Wing. Starting in June 1979 the $2.9 million upgrade included a new building alongside the pool to accommodate a girl's locker room in the basement and an all-purpose room upstairs capable of being used for dances, wrestling, gymnastics and handball. The thoroughfare of Highland Road was terminated and a passageway/walking bridge between the main complex and the rink and cage was built. All plans were developed by the architectural firm of Johnson, Holvedt, DiNisco and Associates. Formal dedication was held on November 10, 1979. (Robert A. Domingue. Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. An Illustrated History of the Property (including Abbot Academy). Wilmington, MA: RAD Publishing, 1990.)