The site was needed for a full-size rugby field and soccer fields for Brown. They stopped using the gym in the late eighties, and the building’s upkeep fell beyond to the point of no return. I lived over the hill from it, and so I got to see it slowly come down for the period of two months. The site went through asbestos abatement, and had many of its windows removed and sold to antique dealers. The slate roof was also removed, tile by tile, and sold. The University put the cupola (tower) in storage for possible future use. As reported in Brown University’s Alumni magazine, Clay Rock and David Stem reclaimed the copper-clad interior doors and door jambs (which were painted brown) for use in Monohasset Mill’s bathroom doors for most of its condo units.
From East Side Monthly, June 2002:
Officially closed in 1989 due to extensive repairs that would be necessary to maintain it, Marvel gym once housed three basketball courts plus smaller rooms for wrestling, boxing, fencing, courts for squash and handball and a trophy room. The clock in the tower was designed with the usual numerals replaced by A-L-D-R-I-C-H-F-I-E-L-D.
The first basketball game played when the building opened in 1927 was won by Brown against Harvard 33 to 30.
March 8, 1968, Jimi Hendrix played Marvel Gym. Also of note, the Brown Bear originally guarded Marvel Gym since the 1920’s, and was moved to the Green. The inscription on the rear of the statue’s base reads: “This is a piece of the slate rock on which Roger Williams Landed when he came here in 1636 to hold forth his lively experiment of independence with strength & courage. May his spirit live in Brown men.” (The inscription predates Brown’s becoming coeducational)
The building almost became housing, as a private developer and Brown alumnus almost bought it for 2.8 million. In the face of neighborhood opposition, the plan stalled. Because of its location in the heart of a residential neighborhood and next door to the Jewish Community Center, finding an appropriate use had been illusive. The cost of rehabbing the building proved too much for Brown. Several other institutions looked into using the building, but the cost was prohibitive.
Because of its location near the football stadium and outdoor track, and Brown’s need for other fields for its students, the final plan presented before residents involved demolition of the structure to make way for regulation size Rugby field on the 3.7 acre site that could be used for other sports as well. There are no plans for spectator stands or additional night lighting.
Ed Roy Jun 12 2016 I too went to the Jimi Hendrix concert in the late 60's. It was such a small venue that my ears were ringing for a week. But quite an experience. We also used the weight room there. It was rickety even then.
John Feb 27 2016 No fire that night at Marvel at all. Put a few holes in some cabinets. Concert ended with him throwing one of his strats still pulled in over the amps and some kid caught it in mid flight and was heading out the door when a providence cop doing the detail caught him. I was telling this story to my investigators one day and one who had been a Providence cop, said yeah I caught the guy and gave the guitar back.
Marsha Mar 12 2015 I saw Jimi Hendrix there in 1968. I will never forget him setting his guitar on fire at the end of the show. In light of The Station Fire, it is amazing that this went on; thank goodness no one was hurt. I also went to see Brown play PC in basketball when I was in 7th grade, the year PC won the NIT. My friend and I watched PC play on TV every Saturday afternoon. It never occurred to us to go watch them play at home at PC! We waited until the one time all season they played in our neighborhood at Marvel Gym, lol!
Arthur Towers Jan 13 2010 Watched Brown U play basketball there in the 1970s. Their freshman team one year was better than the varsity and developed a little bit of a cult following. They played a great game against Marvin Barnes’ freshman team from PC. As those players got older, I remember sellouts of 1,200+ and people sitting on the upstairs track and on the floor at the ends in front of the bleachers. One night a fan threw a workboot on the floor to protest a bad call. At that time, the court was oriented north-south and so it was really intimate. That was just as the Civic Center was being built. So Brown would play a couple games a year at the Civic Center but most games at Marvel. I was waterboy for two seasons and really loved it, but the team could never win on the road against Penn and Princeton so never even made NIT. Best player I ever saw there: Brian Taylor of Princeton, who went on to play with the Nets. Saw the Penn coach who coached the Pistons to the NBA titles coach there too. Spacing on his name, but my memory of him is that he was in a fancy suit, puffing on a cigarette underneath the stands.
Jay Harris Saw Jimi Hendrix in the late 60s at Marvel Gym. His stage was nothing more than a collapsible stage with pipe & drape backdrop.
Stan The Marvel Gym was also the host to the RI Science Fair during the 50s. To me the building seemed huge inside with aisle after aisle of amazing science projects on display.
Joe Wow. I used to play little league at the baseball fields RIGHT next to that building. I never even knew what it was. That’s incredible.
Jim Gallivan I lived on Hope Street in the 1950s and we neighborhood kids would ride our bikes over there on Saturdays and go inside to play on the gym equipment, parallel bars, rings, etc. It was mostly deserted and whoever might have been there never questioned us.
Martin J. Chevian I remember going there for several years in the mid sixties for the city (state??) science fairs. It was awesome!
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