William & Mary built Blow Gymnasium, 262 Richmond Road, after receiving a gift of $130,200 from Mrs. Adele Matthiessen Blow, in memory of her husband, Captain George Preston Blow, U.S. Navy. Construction began in 1923 and was completed early in 1925.
While Captain Blow did not attend William & Mary, his father, grandfather, and other family members were alumni. His grandfather also served on the Board of Visitors from 1833-1837. Mrs. Blow's gift allowed William & Mary to build a gymnasium separate from a newly built dormitory for men. The new women's dormitory, Jefferson Hall, had athletic facilities in its basement.
Dramatic growth of the student body during the 1920s and 1930s increased the need for additional and larger athletics facilities. Originally T-shaped, Blow Gym was substantially enlarged by the addition of a south wing in 1940. In 1950, the Board of Visitors discussed additional demands for further improvements, including dressing room facilities for women using the pool. In 1963, Adair Hall opened, which alleviated some of the strain on Blow Gym, although plans were already underway to build a modern arena for the men's physical education department. Blow Gym remained the home of men's basketball until William & Mary Hall hosted its first games in December 1970. From the 1970s until the opening of the Recreation Center, Blow Gym continued to serve as a much-needed recreation center for students, faculty, and staff.
In 1991, Blow Gymnasium was renovated and converted from a physical education building into a complex for classrooms and offices. It was rededicated as Blow Memorial Hall. Blow Hall is located on Richmond Road near Zable Stadium and is home to a number of offices and departments, including the Roy R. Charles Center, the Office of the University Registrar, and the Bursar's Office. In addition, the Board of Visitors meets there.
Board of Visitors Excerpts
March 6, 1923
"President Chandler reported to the Board that Mrs. George Blow would give $60,000 to a new gymnasium building.
"By Mr. Coleman and adopted, that we have a gymnasium building separate from a new dormitory for boys, and that President Chandler be authorized to proceed with new plans and specifications for a new dormitory and a new gymnasium building, and that the entire matter of the new plans for these buildings be referred to the Building Committee of the Board with power to act."
June 9, 1924
"As the conversation developed between Mr. Barney and Mr. Gillette I saw at once that they were growing further apart and that Mr. Barney desired to present a landscape plan which he calls a parti, of his own. We endeavored to get Mr. Barney to designate a place for the gymnasium. This he declined to do. On November 20, 1923, the Board met and awarded the contract for the gymnasium, and the site for the building was left to the Building Committee after consultation with Mr. Barney. Dr. Dillard and the President of the College were authorized to see Mr. Barney and accordingly we visited him on November 23, 1923. Mr. Barney's answers to Dr. Dillard and me were vey evasive but I felt that we had to have some decision on the gymnasium. Accordingly, I wrote him on November 26, 1923, asking him if he would kindly designate a place, and on November 28 he wrote that he was not a t all satisfied but that he would agree to the gymnasium being placed in the general neighborhood of the old Grand Stand and with central axe at right angels to the main axe of the other College buildings, in the general direction of the Duke of Gloucester Street. The gymnasium was accordingly placed."
June 8, 1925
"Upon the recommendation of Charles M. Robinson, Architect, the Blow Memorial building was accepted by the Board."
May 20, 1950
"The Building Committee considered plans for remodeling a section of the Blow Gymnasium to provide dressing room facilities for women using the gym pool. The Bursar explained that this project had been awaiting the availability of funds from the recreational fees which had previously been allocated by Board resolution to the retirement of the debt on the Blow Gymnasium addition. The Bursar reported that this debt would be retired at the end of the current fiscal year, and while there were a great many deferred demands against these creational fees, most of them proposed remodeling the gymnasium. The Committee agreed and instructed the Bursar to obtain estimates of the cost of the proposed project and to incorporate it in the budget to be considered at the June meeting of the Board."
Material in the Special Collections Research Center
- Guide for conducting research related to the College of William & Mary
- Godson, et al. The College of William & Mary: A History (1993).
- Board of Visitors Records, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library
The Flat Hat, Alumni Gazette, William & Mary News:
- Bids received on new dormitory and physical education building FH, 2/9/1923, pg. 6.
- Students to raise $10,000 for new gymnasium FH, 3/9/1923, pg. 1, 7.
- Students launch $10,000 campaign FH, 3/16/1923, pg. 1, 8.
- Sketch of gymnasium FH, 4/6/1923, pg. 1.
- Mrs. George Preston blow makes gift of $100,000 to W&M to be used for men's gym FH, 4/20/1923, pg. 1, 8.
- Mr. J.B. Padgett offers to boost gym fund FH, 4/20/1923, pg. 6.
- Claude Bragdon, architect, addresses student body FH, 5/11/1923, pg. 1, 5.
- Gym fund FH, 5/11/1923, pg. 4.
- "The School of Yesteryear" to be presented to benefit the Gym Fund FH, 5/18/1923, pg. 4.
- Mrs. Blow makes additional contribution FH, 11/16/1923, pg. 1, 2, 4.
- Almost completed FH, 12/5/1924, pg. 3.
- Modern in all respects FH, 12/12/1924, pg. 1.
- Main wing completed FH, 1/9/1925, pg. 3
- Dedication ceremonies; scene of final dances FH, 5/23/1925, pg. 1, 5.
- Regulations FH, 9/25/1925, pg. 6.
- Newspapers put on file in YMCA reading room FH, 10/21/1927, pg. 5.
- Improvements made to "Y" room FH, 10/12/1928, pg. 5.
- YMCA installs telephone booth for students' use FH, 10/26/1928, pg. 1.
- Donor Mrs. George Preston Blow dies FH, 9/27/1929, pg. 10.
- Sketch of doorway FH, 11/1/1929, pg. 14.
- Cotillion Club postponed set of midwinters to be given in gym FH, 2/18/1936, pg. 1.
- Redecoration for dances FH, 10/12/1936, pg. 1, 6.
- German formals scheduled FH, 11/24/1936, pg. 1.
- Ut sic Mens Sana in Corpore Sano: Dedication Plaque FH, 1/10/1939, pg. 3.
- Addition to gym will allow 2,000 to witness games FH, 9/24/1940, pg. 3.
- Artist's drawing of new gym FH, 10/1/1940, pg. 1 (picture).
- Dedication of gym addition to be delayed FH, 2/18/1941, pg. 3.
- Aides-Faculty court contest is postponed until addition dedication FH, 2/18/1941, pg. 1, 3. 5.
- New gymnasium AG, March 1941, pg. 1, 27.
- Just before the big battle; new floor in gym FH, 3/11/1941, pg. 3.
- Improvements FH, 9/23/1941, pg. 1 (picture).
- Fire damages Blow lounge after dance FH, 2/23/1943, pg. 1, 4.
- Sunday night boredom has been lifted, Blow gym facilities open to students FH, 3/23/1943, pg. 1, 3.
- Bridge playing added to Sunday night recreation facilities in gym FH, 3/30/1943, pg. 1.
- Students, faculty, chaplains enjoy gym's activities FH, 4/6/1943, pg. 2.
- Blow pool opens FH, 3/1/1944, pg. 5.
- New WAM Canteen opening FH, 4/26/1944, pg. 7.
- Blow open house adds new events FH, 10/11/1944, pg. 6.
- Artificial tennis court in Blow FH, 12/19/1944, pg. 5.
- Insufficient number exits create fire hazard FH, 3/28/1945, pg. 8.
- Peary NAPs plan graduation dance FH, 4/18/1945, pg. 1.
- Sports equipment available to men FH, 2/13/1946, pg. 7.
- Graduation weekend features two dances FH, 2/20/1946, pg. 1, 8.
- Chandler dance features cotton FH, 4/17/1946, pg. 10.
- Seating plan used for court games FH, 12/17/1946, pg. 6.
- Mc Cray releases gym regulations FH, 9/30/1947, pg. 8.
- Pool periods listed FH, 11/25/1947, pg. 10.
- Women's pool hours listed FH, 10/12/1948, pg. 5.
- Students to gain use of Gym on Sundays FH, 10/12/1948, pg. 7.
- Baseball movie shown FH, 11/16/1948, pg. 10.
- Flat Hat investigates conditions of Blow Gym FH, 3/8/1949, pg. 1, 10 (picture).
- Coed swimming sessions planned FH, 12/14/1948, pg. 5.
- New locks, lockers added FH, 2/7/1950, pg. 7.
- Improvements added to gym FH, 10/3/1950, pg. 7.
- Roof in office falls as officers retreat FH, 12/9/1958, pg. 6.
- Donna Floyd plays exhibition match FH, 12/1/1959, pg. 8.
- Closes for renovation FH, 9/19/1980, pg. 7.
- To re-open FH, 10/31/1980, pg. 5.
- Sweating is out at Blow Sauna FH, 2/6/1981, pg. 2.
- College curtails access to gym FH, 9/21/1984, pg. 1, 3.
- To undergo renovation FH, 8/30/1985, pg. 1.
- Racquetball, weight room policies FH, 9/13/1985, pg. 15.
- To be renovated to house Admissions and classrooms FH, 11/21/1986, pg. 1.
- To be closed August 1988 FH, 10/23/1987, pg. 1, 5 (picture).
- Bruce Hornsby films a music video in Blow AG, April 1988, pg. 4 (picture).
- Blow goes, Ewell opens FH, 1/20/1989, pg. 3.
- Blow gym renovation brings back memories AG, May 1989, pg. 4 (pictures).
- Hewlett-Packard gives computers to Business School; to be installed in Blow Hall WMN, 6/27/1990, pg. 7.
- Blow Memorial Hall opens doors FH, 12/7/1990, pg. 7.
- Faculty Club hosts reception in new Blow Hall WMN, 1/16/1991, pg. 1.
- New directory for Blow Hall WMN, 1/16/1991, pg. 3.
- Blow Hall dedication set for Charter Day WMN, 1/23/1991, pg. 1.
- Dedicatory plaque unveiled WMN, 2/6/1991, pg. 5 (picture).
- Renovated Blow Hall is dedicated AG, March 1991, pg. 1 (picture).
- Executives give overview of Business and Environmental Issues; Audience tours Blow Hall WMN, 5/8/1991, pg. 5 (picture).
- College shifts departments FH, 2/7/1992, pg. 1, 6.
- Mold infects employees WMN, 1/29/1993, pg. 1, 4 (picture).
- Rector's office dedicated in Flora Willcox Berkeley's honor WMN, 5/22/1995, pg. 2 (picture).
- Rector's office dedicated AG, Sept. 1995, pg. 15 (picture).
- "Less than a month later William & Mary would dismantle my team when we met them at their diminutive and claustrophobic home court in Blow Gym. It was the worst place to play basketball in America and I felt like someone had put me in a straightjacket every time I went there. Because my father had once played at Blow Gym for the Marines at Quantico, he and the family were coming down for the game. Against a fierce zone I put in two of the longest jump shots I had ever taken as a college guard to open the game. Then I saw my family enter the gymnasium late just after that second shot went in. Something bruised my spirit when I realized I had taken those shots because I wanted my family to see the kind of player I had become and they had missed the display's initial fanfare. The headline in the News and Courier said, "William & Mary Bombs Cadets 91-57." I have never played on a team anywhere that got beaten worse than we did. I hate writing a single thing about it or remembering that chickenhearted game at all. It made me sick to my stomach to watch my father's snide face as my team got taken apart. Kroboth had fourteen, I had eleven, and no one else even came close to scoring in double figures." -- Pat Conroy, My Losing Season, pages 276-277