The College of William and Mary was able to build Blow Gymnasium after receiving a gift of $130,200 from Mrs. Adele Matthiessen Blow in memory of her husband, Captain George Preston Blow, U.S. Navy. Construction began in 1923 and was completed early in 1925.
While Captain Blow did not attended William and Mary, his father, grandfather, and other family members were alumni, and his grandfather also served on the Board of Visitors. Mrs. Blow’s gift allowed William and Mary to build a gymnasium separate from a new dormitory for boys whereas the recently completed women’s dormitory, Jefferson Hall, had athletic facilities in its basement.
Dramatic growth of the student body during the 1920s and 1930s made more and larger athletic facilities a necessity soon after the completion of the Blow Gym in 1925. Originally T-shaped, it was substantially enlarged by the addition of a south wing in 1940. In 1950, the Board of Visitors discussed additional demands for further improvements including dressing room facilities for women using the pool and renovations for the gymnasium. In 1963, Adair Hall opened, which alleviated some of the alleviated some of the strain on Blow Gym, but plans were already underway to build a modern arena as the home of the men’s physical education department. Blow Gym remained the home of men’s basketball until William and Mary Hall hosted its first games in December 1970. From the 1970s until the opening of the Recreation Center, Blow Gym continued to serve as a much-needed recreation center for students, faculty, and staff.
In 1991, Blow Gymnasium was renovated and converted from a physical education building into a complex for classrooms and offices, and was rededicated as Blow Memorial Hall. Blow Hall is located on Richmond Road near Zable Stadium and is home to a number of offices and departments including the Roy R. Charles Center, Sharpe Community Scholars Program, and the Office of Student Volunteer Services. These offices moved to Blow after the School of Business moved to new quarters upon the opening of Alan B. Miller Hall in 2009.
Board of Visitors Excerpts
March 6, 1923
"President Chandler reported to the Board that Mrs. George Blow would give $60,000 to a new gymnasium building.
"By Mr. Coleman and adopted, that we have a gymnasium building separate from a new dormitory for boys, and that President Chandler be authorized to proceed with new plans and specifications for a new dormitory and a new gymnasium building, and that the entire matter of the new plans for these buildings be referred to the Building Committee of the Board with power to act."
June 9, 1924
"As the conversation developed between Mr. Barney and Mr. Gillette I saw at once that they were growing further apart and that Mr. Barney desired to present a landscape plan which he calls a parti, of his own. We endeavored to get Mr. Barney to designate a place for the gymnasium. This he declined to do. On November 20, 1923, the Board met and awarded the contract for the gymnasium, and the site for the building was left to the Building Committee after consultation with Mr. Barney. Dr. Dillard and the President of the College were authorized to see Mr. Barney and accordingly we visited him on November 23, 1923. Mr. Barney’s answers to Dr. Dillard and me were vey evasive but I felt that we had to have some decision on the gymnasium. Accordingly, I wrote him on November 26, 1923, asking him if he would kindly designate a place, and on November 28 he wrote that he was not a t all satisfied but that he would agree to the gymnasium being placed in the general neighborhood of the old Grand Stand and with central axe at right angels to the main axe of the other College buildings, in the general direction of the Duke of Gloucester Street. The gymnasium was accordingly placed."
June 8, 1925
"Upon the recommendation of Charles M. Robinson, Architect, the Blow Memorial building was accepted by the Board."
May 20, 1950
"The Building Committee considered plans for remodeling a section of the Blow Gymnasium to provide dressing room facilities for women using the gym pool. The Bursar explained that this project had been awaiting the availability of funds from the recreational fees which had previously been allocated by Board resolution to the retirement of the debt on the Blow Gymnasium addition. The Bursar reported that this debt would be retired at the end of the current fiscal year, and while there were a great many deferred demands against these creational fees, most of them proposed remodeling the gymnasium. The Committee agreed and instructed the Bursar to obtain estimates of the cost of the proposed project and to incorporate it in the budget to be considered at the June meeting of the Board."
- University Archives Buildings File (2007), Blow Gymnasium, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary.
The SCRC welcomes various forms of support from friends and supporters. Here at the SCRC Wiki we welcome visitors to share what you may know about our collections as well as the traditions, history, and people of the College of William and Mary based on your research or personal experience.
You are welcome to create an account and share your memories or what you have discovered while using the SCRC's collections on appropriate pages on the SCRC Wiki. A guide with best practices for the SCRC Wiki is available and we ask that you read it over if you plan to do extensive editing of wiki pages. If you prefer to not edit the wiki directly, contact University Archivist Amy Schindler to share your information. If you are a William and Mary alumnus or have another association with the university, we would appreciate knowing that as well, but it is by no means required. We look forward to hearing from you.
- "Less than a month later William and Mary would dismantle my team when we met them at their diminutive and claustrophobic home court in Blow Gym. It was the worst place to play basketball in America and I felt like someone had put me in a straightjacket every time I went there. Because my father had once played at Blow Gym for the Marines at Quantico, he and the family were coming down for the game. Against a fierce zone I put in two of the longest jump shots I had ever taken as a college guard to open the game. Then I saw my family enter the gymnasium late just after that second shot went in. Something bruised my spirit when I realized I had taken those shots because I wanted my family to see the kind of player I had become and they had missed the display's initial fanfare. The headline in the News and Courier said, "William and Mary Bombs Cadets 91-57." I have never played on a team anywhere that got beaten worse than we did. I hate writing a single thing about it or remembering that chickenhearted game at all. It made me sick to my stomach to watch my father's snide face as my team got taken apart. Kroboth had fourteen, I had eleven, and no one else even came close to scoring in double figures." -- Pat Conroy, My Losing Season, pages 276-277
To search for further material, visit the Special Collections Research Center's Search Tool List for an overview of the Special Collections Database, W&M Digital Archive, Flat Hat-William & Mary News-Alumni Gazette index, card catalogs, and other tools available to help you find material of interest in the Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center.
Questions? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 757-221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary.
|A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki|
|The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.|