A Style From The 1950s & 60s Still Has Some Charm
You might not even notice if you’re sitting in the first 4 or 5 rows at one of these gyms, but the arched-support beams holding the roof up are made multiple layers of curved wood.
[Quick note: I am no architectural expert. It’s very likely that this style of gym has an official name. If you happen to know it, or any of the others, feel free to drop me a line.]
There are several other Illinois high schools that have this type of support system for their gyms, Alden-Hebron, Bremen in Midlothian, North Mac in Virden, Tinley Park, Eureka, and the former St. Joseph High School in Westchester which closed after the 2021 school year.
St. Joseph’s gym probably got the most notoriety given the fact its program had been a regular powerhouse in the basketball strong East Suburban Catholic Conference, as well as a six trips to the final four including two state titles. Add to that it was home to Isiah Thomas and had a big part in the documentary film “Hoop Dreams” and you can see how it was visited a few more times than its identical counterparts.
It’s just a fact of the game, making the post-season, hosting tournaments, and in general just getting people outside your school into your gym automatically gets people talking about it. Some of the gyms I’ve been told I can’t miss had more to do with the size of the crowd and the importance of the games played there, and when I visited them I felt they were just so-so. Emotions are a tricky thing that way.
What About The Hoosiers of Illinois; Hebron?
If you know any of the great stories of high school basketball in Illinois, you’ll know in 1952, just a few years before the team the movie “Hoosiers” was based on won their Indiana state title, the Giants of Hebron did it first. However, that was before this gym was built. Yet there are still signs everywhere of that championship, including a permanent team roster of the Hebron and Quincy players from that title game hanging next to the scoreboard. Also, the original gym still exists, hoops and all, but is the school’s cafeteria these days. Check out the Alden-Hebron page here.
Much of what I mentioned when writing about St. Joseph High School’s gym was how it was hallowed ground based on all that had happened there during it’s 61 year run. So there’s a bit of irony knowing that the look and style that gym had, as well as Hebron and Bremen, matches with the church my family attends, St. Paul and the Redeemer, in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood. Which just happens to be a about a half-court shot away from Kenwood Academy, one of Chicago’s current hoops’ top teams.