Created By: Mars Hill University
In 1914, trustee W.C. McConnell of Asheville offered to give $500 dollars towards the construction of a new campus gymnasium to be included in the proposed Sams Dormitory or separately. Upon receiving Mr. McConnell's offer, college trustees appointed a three-person gymnasium committee to review the process further on May 7, 1914, which included McConnell and fellow trustees J.M. Stoner and R.S. Gibbs.
Following the conversion of the former Riddle hotel into a men's dormitory, the committee discussed the possibility of building a combined gymnasium/administration building but these plans were abandoned when Mr. McConnell upped his original pledge to the project from $500 dollars to $1,000 dollars in 1919 and urged construction to begin as soon as possible. Even with this new donation and urging from trustees, it would not be until August 1923 before architectural plans were produced by the firm of Smith & Carrier of Asheville (Richard Sharp Smith had also served as chief architect for the Biltmore House.) Construction on the building was completed in 1924, except for the swimming pool, which was not finished until 1932. On January 8, 1925, trustees approved a motion to name the new gymnasium in honor of Mr. McConnell who had fought for and funded the initial project.
Although heavily used over the years, much of the original interior of McConnell Gymnasium remains intact today. By 1952, the swimming pool located in the basement of the building had been covered up and converted into handball courts for faculty and students to use. Following the completion of Chamber Gymnasium, the bottom floor of McConnell was assigned to the college's education department who used the space for offices until 1996 when the department was moved into what is now Nash Education Hall. Following the education department's exit, the award winning Bailey Mountain Cloggers dance team has occupied the bottom floor. The main level of the building still contains the original basketball court and oval track, neither which are used. Today, McConnell Gymnasium continues to house the Bailey Mountain Cloggers, offices for the athletic department, and home to a variety of student recreational and leisure events.
This point of interest is part of the tour: A Walking Tour of Mars Hill University