Old Gymnasium’s Woman’s Pool (1929 addition) after seismic upgrade c.1937. Photo: courtesy BUSD
Old Gymnasium’s Woman’s Pool (1929 addition) after seismic upgrade c.1937. Photo: courtesy BUSD

Demolition work began this week on Berkeley High’s Old Gym on Milvia Street. The building has not been in use by students since October 2011 when it was abruptly closed by the school district. Its removal has been on the cards for a while, however.

The Old Gymnasium was built in 1922 and designed by William Hays. An addition, designed by Walter Ratcliff, Jr., was built in 1929 which included the warm-water pool. Following the Long Beach earthquake in 1933, the building was seismically upgraded in 1939.

Over the past few years the Old Gym has fallen into significant disrepair and was in need of further seismic upgrades. A proposal to rehabilitate it was rejected, despite the building having been landmarked in 2007. In 2008, a group of volunteers conducted a study to ascertain whether the Old Gym could be reasonably adapted to fulfill the needs of the school. Architect Henrik Bull was part of the group and wrote about the work for Berkeleyside, arguing that it could be saved.

Demolition of the Old Gym will continue over the summer and construction of what is known as the South of Bancroft Project is scheduled to begin in the fall.

Gymnasium interior-North Gym or Social Hall (1929 addition) Dance photo c.1933. Photo: courtesy BUSD

The new project, to be designed by Baker Vilar Architects, will include a soft gym, a 4,000 sq ft fitness center and other athletic spaces, and 15 new classrooms. The rest of the south end of campus will include a softball field and an open space, doubling as an outdoor atrium for events and activities. All of the work on the South of Bancroft Project has been funded by Construction Bond Measures A and AA, and will be completed with Measure I of 2010. Read more about the development on the BUSD website.

Thanks to the collaboration of BUSD’s Facilities Division, Berkeleyside was able sift through the district’s photographic archives and is marking the occasion of the Old Gymnasium’s passing by publishing some images of the building in its heyday and over the past 90 years.

View a gallery of photographs of the Old Gymnasium, courtesy of BUSD.

West End-South Elevation of the Gym (1929 addition) prior to reconstruction, 10-5-36. Photo: courtesy BUSD
South Pool interior during seismic upgrade, 3-30-37. Photo: courtesy BUSD
Interior North wall mural of the Old Gymnasium, 10-5-36. Photo: courtesy BUSD
Gymnasium North End-East Facade (1929 addition) 10-5-36. Photo: courtesy BUSD
Demolition work of the Old Gymnasium began this week. Photo: Tracey Taylor
Aerial rendering of new building to replace the Old Gym. Photo: courtesy Baker Vilar Architects

A funeral for a much loved Berkeley swimming pool [12.15.11]
BUSD addresses concerns over BHS campus construction [10.24.11]
Superintendent Huyett apologizes to BHS football team [10.13.11]
Closure of BHS gym rattles athletes, angers parents [10.07.11]
City supports public education with Measures H and I [11.03.10]
Comment: Richmond Plunge holds lessons for Berkeley [08.18.10]
Saving Berkeley High’s Old Gymnasium: A proposal [01.19.10]

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...