Brown University’s Marvel Gymnasium

also known as Marvel Gym

A large former gymnasium with a large enough indoor space to support a suspended indoor quarter mile track. Demolished in 2001.

About this Property

#Reason for Demolition

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 future use on top of a new gym on the East Side closer to the rest of campus. You have to admit, they did a nice job reclaiming what could be reclaimed.

As reported in Brown University’s Alumni magazine, Clay Rockefeller 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.

#Current Events

The block has been flattened and is in use as soccer, rugby, and football practice space.

#History

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.