Gould Academy – William Bingham Gym – 1921

November 16, 2009





Plans for New Gymnasium – to be Funded by William Bingham II

On May 7 1921 the Lewiston Journal and on May 12 The Oxford County Citizen printed this special news announcement by Gould Academy Principal, Frank E. Hanscom.

New Gym

Gould buildings 1924.jpgGround will be broken within one week and the work will go forward to completion in time for the opening of the new school year of a new gymnasium for Gould’s Academy. The building will be of brick, 50 by 80 feet. The basement will contain a central hating plant to heat all the buildings on the campus, - dressing rooms for the athletic teams, both booths and girls, with showers, lockers, etc. A separate dressing room with showers, lavatories, etc, will be provided for visiting teams.

Home Ec.

The ground floor will contain the gymnasium proper, with stage and dressing rooms for same; also director’s and apparatus rooms. A balcony will surround the room on three sides, thus giving a seating capacity of seven hundred, when the room is used as an auditorium.

Main Bldg

Plans and specifications were drawn by Coolidge & Carlson, the well known architects of Boston, who will supervise the work of construction. (See Note 1) It is their assertion that no better gymnasium will be found in any secondary school in New England.

1924 Map of Gould Campus – does not show Holden dorm

In addition to the gym other important improvements will be made on the campus during the summer vacation. The Domestic Arts cottage will be enlarged to give added room for the cooking laboratory and two or three rooms for girls will be added, this enabling a group of eight or ten girls to live in the cottage at one time. 

The manual training building will be completed and equipped in the best possible manner. This building will contain machine shop and garage in basement, wood working shops on ground floor and finishing and storage rooms on the second floor.

The Academy building will also be improved by the addition of a new colonial entrance, new and enlarged recitation rooms and the installation of an up-to-date heating and ventilating system.

There was much celebrating by the Gould’s student body upon hearing Mr. Hanscom’s announcement. The principal also announced that it was not the purpose of those who have the school in charge to build up a large school, but to evolve a school that shall stand second to non in ideals and in scholastic standards, to this end, only those who can furnish the best of references as to character and fitness will be admitted.

“That Gould’s Academy has entered upon the best decade in her long and honorable history there can be little doubt, and Principal Frank E. Hanscom, who for twenty-four years has worked unceasingly for the upbuilding of the school, is to be congratulated on the growth and progress which the school has made. During his administration, he has seen the attendance twice doubled, the buildings increased and strengthened, the curriculum broadened and diversified, and from an almost total lack of endowment has arisen a financial backing to make the future of the school secure for all times.”

The academy news ended with this communication that the academy had recently received:

“The following tribute was recently paid to Gould’s Academy by the president of one of our Maine colleges:”

“Gould’s Academy has been for nearly a century one of the most useful secondary schools in Maine; nor has it ever been more useful than at the present time. It is the only school that can meet the needs of pupils of small means in one of the most interesting parts of our State. The boys and girls that attend Gould’s Academy are of good stock, and this institution, with its inspiring history and traditions, with its rare environment of noble hills and beautiful valleys, and with its earnest, scholarly and sympathetic teachers, is yielding a fruitage of popular intelligence, thrifty habits and good citizenship not surpassed by any school of its grade in our country.”

Map shown above was created by Sanborn Maps; it is dated September 1924, Bethel, Me. At that time, the street known as Elm Street in 2009 was called Summer Street and intersected High Street.


GOULD GYM 001.jpg

William Bingham Gymnasium, 1953

The Gould Academy Herald


In the announcement about plans for the new building, Mr. Hanscom used the words “those who have the school in charge”.  In 1921 the officers of the academy’s board of trustees included:  Dr. John G. Gehring, President; Daniel S. Hastings, Vice President; Ellery C. Park, Secretary; Ernest M. Walker, Treasurer; and Fred B. Merrill, Auditor.


Note 1:

 Besides supporting Gould’s Academy in the 1920’s William Bingham II also contributed to other major athletic facilities engineered to include facilities for women.  For instance he contributed funds for the Gray Athletic Building in 1927 and a women’s locker building or gym at Bates College.  During these years he also bought the Barker Mountain-Chapman Brook watershed in an effort to protect Bethel’s public water supply. The watershed continued to supply safe water for Bethel until July 2007 when a very severe thunder storm damaged the watershed site to the point that it was not feasibly repairable.

During the 1920’s and later, it seems safe to assume that William Bingham collaborated with or at least consulted his sister, Frances Payne Bingham Bolton, or she did with him, who had become very interested in women’s health and physical fitness.  For instance, circa 1920,  the American College for Girls, Istanbul :  William Bingham II, became  a trustee of the college, and contributed $100,000 for the establishment of a School of Medicine at the college in memory of his mother, Mary Payne Bingham. 

From the history of campus buildings at Bates College, this information has been discovered.

This indoor athletic building was made possible by Mr. William Bingham II of Bethel, who gave $150,000 for its erection.  He requested that it be named in honor of President Clifton Daggett Gray. The first of four units of a planned Physical Education plant, the cornerstone was laid on Dec. 14, 1925; the building was completed in 1927.

Designed by Coolidge and Carlson of Boston (the same architects who designed the Bingham Gym at Gould’s), the athletic building was to be used not only for intercollegiate sports but was also to be part of the college’s health program; women were to have equal access to it.  Plans for new athletic facilities were drawn up in 1922 but the need became more urgent when the old gymnasium mysteriously burned in June of 1925.  This first unit, the indoor athletic building, was to be a supplement to a gymnasium, not a replacement for it.

The Gray Athletic Building featured an indoor field large enough to contain a baseball diamond excluding the outfield, a ten lap cinder-dirt track with banked corners and a wooden track at the mezzanine level which also could serve as a gallery. (This type of facility was copied when Mr. Bingham donated funds for building a similar athletic building at Gould Academy ten years later.

Also built at this time was the Men’s Locker Building, which may also have been financed by Mr. Bingham.  It housed a corrective gym, squash and handball courts, lockers, dressing rooms, offices and a medical examination room.  The handball and squash courts became coeducational in 1971.

The Gray Athletic Building, which became known as the “Cage,” hosted many rallies and field events over the years. Musical events were staged there and luncheons were held during reunion and parents’ weekends; it became coeducational in 1973.  With the opening of Merrill Gymnasium in the fall of 1980, track events were moved to that location.  The Cage continued to be used as a practice site for spring teams and as a competition area for track and field throwing events.

The building that eventually became the Muskie Archives was originally the Women’s Locker Building, also known as the Campus Ave. Gymnasium.  Mr. William Bingham II of Bethel, who gave the money for the Gray Athletic Building, wanted the women to have equal access to it.  He donated an additional $35,000 for this purpose.  Built at the same time as the athletic building, it was connected to it by a long corridor.  The first floor featured showers, which could internally control the water temperature from hot to cold, lockers, dressing rooms, offices and a medical examination room.  The second floor housed a gymnasium, which could be used for corrective work, drills, and both interpretive and folk dancing. 



The Oxford County Citizen

The Bethel Historical Society

Google Books

History of Bates Campus Buildings online

The Bethel Journals

Donald G Bennett

PO Box 763

Bethel, Maine 04217