aka: Old Rock Gym
The Greenwood Gymnasium, at 300 East Gary Street in Greenwood (Sebastian County), is a sturdy stone structure built between 1937 and 1939 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 June 15, 2011.
The first school classes taught in the southern Sebastian County area where the town of Greenwood would be established began in 1870 in a one-room log building. Some classes were available by subscription at the Buckner College near Greenwood in the late 1870s and early 1880s, but students receiving a public education were assigned to Pleasant Ridge School District No. 12, which was based in Palestine.
Greenwood’s population swelled with the growth of coal mining in the area, and a group of seventy-five local residents applied for the creation of a new school district. That application was approved on July 8, 1881, and Greenwood School District No. 25 was established. Students met in the town’s Masonic Hall until 1891, when a two-story stone structure dubbed the Greenwood Normal College was built on the town’s west side, accommodating students in grades four through twelve. A second building was joined to that structure in 1906, doubling its size, and the institution’s name was changed to Greenwood High School.
A new high school building was constructed in 1929 on the northeast side of Greenwood, and the original school building became a grade school, serving in that role until 1953, when a new school with indoor plumbing was built.
When the Great Depression led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to establish the New Deal agencies, the Greenwood School District decided to take advantage of the offerings to have a gymnasium built. The Works Progress Administration approved its application on October 15, 1936, awarding $11,850 to “construct [a] native stone gymnasium including dressing rooms, basement and stage.”
Construction began on March 29, 1937, but was halted for a time on June 30 and did not commence again until March 29, 1938, under the supervision of V. A. Gramlich, who led a crew of thirty-two workers. The $32,000 project was completed by the 1938–39 school year, and around 100 workers were involved by the time it was finished.
The resulting gymnasium was an impressive native stone building distinguished by stepped parapet walls at its east and west elevations, allowing light through its clerestory windows to illuminate the interior. A pair of arched doorways gave access to the building’s lobby, from which the north and south classrooms could be reached. The 108′ x 85′ building included a basketball court, bleachers, a stage, and boys’ and girls’ dressing rooms.
One of more than twenty buildings making up the Greenwood Public School campus in the twenty-first century, the Greenwood Gymnasium continues to serve students as gym and classroom space.
For additional information:
LeJong, Michael. “Greenwood 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/SB0893.nr.pdf (accessed July 15, 2020).
WPA Central Office Files, 1935–1937 Arkansas (Johnson-Yell Cos.), Roll 3. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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