The BYU Women’s Gymnasium has served the Provo community for over a century thanks to locals invested in the building and its history.
In the early 1900s, BYU sporting events and dances were held in the Training Building and BYU High School. In 1912, President George H. Brimhall acknowledged that a new building was needed to accommodate the growth of the school. He set aside the corner of University Avenue and Fifth North for a new building that would hold both women’s sports and social events. The BYU Ladies’ Gymnasium was dedicated on Friday, September 19, 1913.
During the day, the building was used for ladies sporting classes. Focused on facilitating athletics, the original building design included one hundred coil springs underneath the gymnasium floor. It did not work out as expected. Movement sheared off the nails, and blocks were used to hold the floor in place. Despite other problems and leaks, the building served the community well. The men’s basketball team later used the building for games because the bleachers in the Gymnasium held more people than the Training Building.
At night, the Ladies’ Gymnasium was a center for social events. Dances on Fridays went from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and cost thirty-five cents for couples and ten cents for additional ladies. Some of the dances were very memorable. In 1925, a junior-senior dance was centered on the theme Wild West. So many blank cartridges were fired throughout the event that the neighbors complained about the noise. In that same year, BYU alumnus Dave Rust brought his two adopted cougar cubs to a dance, and there was some panic in the Gymnasium when Cleo and Tarbo were released onto the floor.
In the early thirties, the term women replaced the term ladies, and community members began referring to the building as the Women’s Gymnasium. When it was built, the building was labeled Ladies’ Gymnasium in metal lettering, so President Harris scheduled for the letters to be changed to match the trend. The new name remains on the building today.
The Women’s Gymnasium held more than social and sporting events over the years. During World War I, The Army Training Corps occupied the building for several months, and the outbreak of Spanish Influenza across the country caused them to be quarantined during their stay. During World War II, the United States Air Cadets lodged in the gym for a short time. They were moved to another site because of the growing number of female students that needed the building for classes. The building continued to serve as a women’s gymnasium for several decades.
In 2007, the Women’s Gymnasium was scheduled for demolition to make way for a new Zion’s National Bank. Leslie and Michael Gledhill came forward and bought the Gymnasium for $1 million. Leslie had an attachment to the building, having herself spent afternoons there as a child watching college girls during their gymnastics lessons. The couple had the bricks power scrubbed and the inside polished. The original floor was left to preserve the building’s character. The Gledhills saved the building and turned it into the headquarters for their online thrift store: Cherry Lane Keepsakes.
In 2016, the building was sold to Case Lawrence, the owner of Circus Trix. Another $1 million was spent in renovations to make the building a corporate office. Lawrence showed a dedication similar to the Gledhills when he said, “I firmly believe that the best way to preserve a building is by making it relevant for the modern day.” When the original windows and doors were replaced during the renovation, Provo City halted the construction. Despite controversy over preservation, renovations continued and the Women’s Gymnasium gained a new look with a patio cover.
The century-old BYU Women’s Gymnasium has been kept relevant in Provo by leaders and business owners who value the building’s character and ability to serve the needs of the community.