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#TBT--Barn History Series: Williams Arena Breaks Ground

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By popular demand Williams Arena history! This irregularly appearing series will look at all aspect of Williams Arena one of the oldest college basketball stadiums in the United States.

What's up everyone. Today I am kicking off a new series that will appear intermittently (read not every Thursday, that would kill me) about the history of Williams Arena.

The finishing touches being put on the 'Field House' (see the scaffold in the upper right?), probably 1928. Via MNHS

There really isn't much written about the history of The Barn, so I'm mostly doing research from primary and secondary sources. I'll be doing the research the week of these installments so I have no idea where this adventure will take me, what I'll find or when I will be posting it.

This week I thought I'd find out about the beginning, which I had defined as when the U of M broke ground on Williams Arena. According to wikipedia the U started construction on May 10, 1927 (as you'll see this is close but not accurate).

The only paper that carried this story was the Minnesota Daily. The big local papers were focusing all of their coverage on Charles Lindbergh (who was getting ready to make one of his famous non stop flights) and the sports sections was all about the base(ball).

The Minnesota Daily Archives is down for maintenance (jerks), so I transcribed for you the article that appeared on page 4 of the Tuesday May 10, 1927 article about The Barn.

Headline from May 10, 1927. I want to hear more about this sextet...

Massive Enclosure May Be Completed By January 1, 1928
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Madsen Construction Co. Of Minneapolis Is Awarded General Contract
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Digging Will Be Started Wednesday or Thursday

By Maury Fadell

Construction on Minnesota's field house plan will begin this week according to an official announcement from the Madsen Construction company which was awarded the general construction contract yesterday. William T. Middlebrook, comptroller of the university, announced that the Minneapolis concern would have charge of the general work and F.O. Watson of the Madsen company stated that within 24 hours digging will begin.

Mr. Watson said that if they were lucky, that is, if there is no unnecessary delay in the making of the massive steel girders which will come from Bethlehem, Penna., the building should be completed by the first of next year.

Excavation To Start

Excavation work will start either Wednesday or Thursday of this week and should be completed within a comparatively short time as the contractors plan on getting the digging out of the way as soon as possible. The enclosure will be bounded on the four sides by University, Oak, 19th avenue, and 4th street, directly across from the Memorial field stadium.

It was months ago that everyone expected work to begin on the much needed athletic plant, but finances as well as high bids came in for their share of the delay. It was with much enjoyment that Mr. Middlebrook announced that the contract had finally been awarded, and that the Minnesota students, alumni, faculty, and followers will be able to see the beginning of a building which should advance sports to a much higher grade at the Gopher institution.

Pretty straight forward. But there are a few things to tease out of that.

- Efforts to build the 'Field House' had been going on for some time but finances were holding it back. I'll have to check into early in 1927 to see what the was written when the construction had hoped to begin. At the time that the article appeared the University was still trying to build Northrup Auditorium. Construction had stalled in 1927 partially because donors who had pledged money hadn't actually followed through (yikes). In the same May 10 newspaper is a front page article about the U lending itself $70,000 to continue construction on Northrup.

-The last line "...a building which should advance sports to a much higher grade at the Gopher institution." #facilitiesmas was real back in 1927 too. The belief that better facilities would improve athletic performance is a tale as old as time. It's literally the justification for every sports facility the University of Minnesota has ever built. Fast forward to today... it's the same reasoning behind getting new practice facilitates (which I am totally for).

-Now that I know who the general contractor was it will be easier to (hopefully) get more details about construction, architectural drawings-if they still exist.

It's always good to include retro Goldy in an article.

So join me next time when I go further into the history of The Barn.