The Berryville Gymnasium, located in the Berryville High School complex at 902 West Trimble Street in Berryville (Carroll County), was built in 1936–37 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief agency. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 10, 1992.
The Berryville School District decided to take advantage of the programs of the WPA to improve its campus and, in 1936, requested assistance in building a new structure that could serve as a gymnasium and an auditorium. The district learned in late April that the WPA approved $15,434 for the building, and by early July the Berryville Star-Progress reported that “funds have already been set aside for this project and when a few details have been worked out it is understood that work on this structure will begin immediately.”
It apparently took a few more months, because it was mid-September before the newspaper reported that construction would begin under foreman Bill Anderson, who had just overseen WPA-funded repairs to the Carroll County Courthouse in Berryville. The new building would be of native stone with a composition roof, the Star-Progress reported, and “will be 128 x 70 feet with a basement 70 x 40 feet on the west end, which will house the heating plant, two classrooms, showers and dressing rooms. On the first floor directly above will be the stage 70 x 24 feet with dressing rooms on either side.” Two home economics classrooms would be located on the east end of the first floor with a basketball court with retractable bleachers situated between them and the stage. The school district would pay $2,200 on the project, with the WPA covering the rest, including pay for around fifty workers.
In November, the newspaper reported that “ditches grow deeper, the pile of rocks grow[s] higher, the sweat falls faster, and at last the foundation of the new gymnasium is begun.” A month later, the Star-Progress noted that “the basement and walls for the new school auditorium and gym have been poured and work is progressing on this structure rapidly with 53 men now being employed.”
The building was completed by the late spring of 1937. The native stone building, which exhibited influences of the Craftsman style of architecture, was a one-story, gable-roofed structure well lit by large banks of windows. It remains an integral part of the Berryville High School campus in the twenty-first century, providing space for physical education classes as well as offices for migrant affairs and for the Bright Futures program, which provides clothing and other essentials for students who need them.
For additional information:
“Berryville School Notes.” Berryville Star-Progress, November 19, 1936, p. 4.
“Berryville to Get Smith-Hughes Unit.” Berryville Star-Progress, July 9, 1936, p. 1.
“Berryville WPA Projects Progressing.” Berryville Star-Progress, December 17, 1936, p. 1.
“Local Auditorium Project Approved.” Berryville Star-Progress, April 30, 1936, p. 1.
Story, Kenneth. “Berryville Gymnasium.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/CR1078.nr.pdf (accessed January 29, 2020).
“Work Started on New Gymnasium.” Berryville Star-Progress, September 17, 1936, p. 1.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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