The Lono Gymnasium, built in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), is located at 11702 Highway 222 in the community of Lono (Hot Spring County), approximately twelve miles south of Malvern (Hot Spring County). The building was the gymnasium for the Lono School, and basketball was played for the first time in the new gym in 1939. It is comparable in style to other gymnasiums built by the WPA during the same time period in Arkansas. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 2020.
A school opened in Lono in the late nineteenth century. When the gymnasium was built in 1938 by the WPA, a Mr. Crow was the foreman for the job; community members Jake Bailey and Franke Stiles worked as carpenters. Curtis Phillips coached the first basketball game in 1939 and continued to coach there for the next decade. In the 1930s and 1940s, the average enrollment was about 135 students in all twelve grades. The gymnasium was heated by two large iron potbelly stoves with chimneys. The building was used as an auditorium as well as the sports gymnasium.
Lono’s schools consolidated with the Malvern School District in 1949, with older students bused to school, and the elementary school continued to operate for several years before it closed as well. Sometime after 1961, the people of the Lono and Rolla (Hot Spring County) communities were granted use of the gymnasium. In the early 1970s, the Malvern School District deemed it no longer feasible to own the property and buildings and announced they were to be sold. The school building was sold and, in 1974, was torn down. The gymnasium’s existence was in jeopardy, too, but a group of citizens organized a drive to keep it for the use of the people in the area. In 1974, the building and property were sold to the Lono-Rolla Community Center. For many years, the people of the community and surrounding areas utilized the old gymnasium, but time took its toll on the structure.
By 1998, the Lono Gymnasium had deteriorated considerably. A meeting was held to address the situation, and the people of the community once again began a drive to preserve the community landmark for future generations by obtaining grants and donations from many former students and other community members. Due to the persistence of the community, the Lono Gymnasium remains an important part of Lono in the twenty-first century. In 2000, two bathrooms, interior lights, storm windows, a handicapped-accessible ramp, insulation, four metal doors, a hot water heater, and a renovated the meeting room were added. The new asphalt roofing was installed in 2015, and central heating and air-conditioning units were installed in 2005.
The building is built on a continuous cast-concrete foundation, and the walls are sided in wood novelty siding. The building’s side-gable roof is covered in asphalt shingles, and its fenestration consists of a mixture of stationary and double-hung multi-pane windows. The interior of the building is mostly the large gymnasium space, although the north side has a room for meetings, the fully equipped kitchen, and the stage. There are entrances to the building on each end, along with an entrance on each side. There are long, rectangular windows at each end of the gymnasium. Above the bleachers is a set of three windows. The interior walls feature the original wood tongue-and-groove boards. On the south side of the gymnasium are the bleachers.
The gym has almost all of the original wall boards on all of the interior and exterior spaces. The building’s core structure is unaltered from when it was built in 1938. The exterior of the gymnasium has been restored to the original appearance with the exception of the removal of the two chimneys due to water leaks.
For additional information:
Lanier, Jenny. “Lono Gymnasium, Lono, Hot Spring County, Arkansas.” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/HS0236.nr.pdf (accessed April 21, 2020).
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