Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Taft Memorial

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Institution Name: Ohio Northern University
Original/Historic Place Name: Taft Gymnasium
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1927-1929original construction
Designer: unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Gothic revival, Modern/pre-WWII (Glossary)
Significance: history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: concrete
Walls: brick, limestone
Roof: plastic membrane, flat, originally pitched slate
 
Function:
1929-1974gymnasium
ca. 1975-present (2006)academic department building (technology)
 

Narrative:
Taft Gymnasium was named in honor of John H. Taft, Chicago financier, president of the board of trustees, and principal donor for the project.

Originally, the building's site consisted of part of the old university farm plus individual lots, the latter having been acquired by May 1926. The cornerstone was laid in May 1927, and the building was dedicated May 25, 1929, at commencement.

The new Taft Gymnasium was the first purpose-built athletic facility at Northern, and it provided playing facilities for indoor sports like basketball, an indoor running track, and improved locker rooms. It was also conveniently located near the playing and practice fields.

Over the years, Taft was also used for dances and other social events like the annual Choral Cabaret. These activities were transferred to McIntosh Center after the student center was built in the 1960s. One noteworthy non-athletic event held in Taft was the January 11, 1968 visit by Dr. Martin Luther King. The gymnasium was filled to capacity and an overflow audience listened through speakers in Lehr auditorium.

The difficulties involved in updating Taft had become all too apparent by the early 1970s. Complaints were heard about a lack of storage space, the small size of the basketball court, inadequate restrooms, and an underpowered heating system. These were faults that would have been difficult to address if the building had remained in use as a gymnasium.

Fortunately, a gift of $1.9 million from the estate of Mrs. Helen H. King of Eaton, Ohio, allowed work to begin on a replacement, the King-Horn Convocation Center. The final basketball game played in Taft Gymnasium was against Ferris State in February 1974. By autumn of that year, the new King-Horn Center had opened and Taft's life as an athletic facility ended.

Shortly thereafter, work began on converting the gymnasium to a new home for the Department of Technology. A major change involved removing the building's pitched roof and adding a new stairwell to the southeast corner. The interior was completely renovated, and labs for wood technology, graphic arts, lapidary, photography, plastics, printing, and power mechanics were added. Most recently, computer design and robotics facilities have been included.
 

References:

Belch, Eugene. "Tempered by Crises." 1971. Online (2006). Ohio Northern University, Ada, OH. http://www.onu.edu/library/onuhistory/ohistory.htm

Kennedy, Sara Lehr. H. S. Lehr and His School. Ada, OH: Ohio Northern University Press, 1983. Online (2006) http://www.onu.edu/library/onuhistory/ohistory.htm

Lehr, Henry Solomon. History of the ONU. Ada, OH: Ohio Northern University Press, 1994.
Online (2006). http://www.onu.edu/library/onuhistory/ohistory.htm

Logsdon, Paul. An ONU Photo Album, 1997. Online (2006). Ohio Northern University, Ada, OH. http://www.onu.edu/library/onuhistory/ohistory.htm

 

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Last update: November 2006