The Snowball Gymnasium is a one-story concrete-block building located to the west of downtown Snowball (Searcy County). As the site of sporting events and other community gatherings, the Snowball Gymnasium has been an important community center and gathering place for the Snowball community since the mid-twentieth century. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 16, 2020.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed a new school at Snowball in 1938. The school campus was expanded in 1956 with the construction of the gymnasium. The gymnasium was built by contractors Vance Crow and Bea Stuart of Harrison (Boone County), and they boarded in Snowball with the Joe Cash family while the building was being constructed. The first basketball game was played in the gymnasium on October 26, 1956, against the Mount Judea teams. The gymnasium was also used for various school events, including square dancing, Halloween carnivals, music events, pie auctions, and more. Jimmy Driftwood, who won a Grammy award for his song “The Battle of New Orleans,” served as a superintendent, teacher, and coach at Snowball in the 1950s.
After the Snowball School closed, the school grounds were deeded to the Snowball Civic Club on March 18, 1982. At that time, the community used the gymnasium as a central voting location and for community events. The school building burned to the ground in September of 1986, and in 1996 the Twin Lakes Fox Hunt Club constructed a pavilion over the remnants of the school building. By 2020, the Snowball Gymnasium was the last remaining building from the Snowball School campus, serving as an important reminder of the role that the campus played in the town’s social and educational history.
The Snowball Gymnasium sits on a continuous concrete-block foundation and is fenestrated mainly with metal-frame awning windows, although the windows on the south façade have been replaced with double-hung windows. A small frame addition was built on the west side of the building. The interior of the building is dominated by the gymnasium space. It is lined with bleachers on the east and west sides and has a stage area at the north end. The roof is supported by metal trusses. The space has a wood floor, and it is painted with the typical markings for a basketball court. At the south end of the building is the lobby area.
The largest changes to the building include the construction of the small addition on the west side and the installation of sheet-metal siding in the gable peaks, which was placed prior to 1965 according to former students at the school. Also, the windows of the front façade were replaced, but the new windows are the same size as the original windows. However, even with the changes, the building still reflects its design as a 1950s gymnasium.
For additional information:
“Snowball 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/SE0483.nr.pdf (accessed December 17, 2020).
“Snowball to Have First Game in New Gym Tonight.” Marshall Mountain Wave, October 26, 1956.
Last Updated: 03/21/2021