John H. Taft Gymnasium
Taft Gymnasium was named in honor of John Holsten Taft,
Originally, building’s site consisted of part of the old university farm plus individual lots, the latter having been acquired by Northern by May 1926. The cornerstone was laid in May 1927, and the building was dedicated
The new Taft Gymnasium was the first purpose-built athletic facility at Northern, and it provided playing facilities for basketball, an indoor running track and improved locker rooms. Playing and practice fields were located to the west of the building.
Over the years, Taft was also used for dances and other social events like the annual Choral Cabaret. These activities were transferred to
The difficulties involved in updating Taft had become all too apparent by the early 1970’s. Complaints were heard about a lack of storage space, the small size of the basketball court, inadequate restrooms and an under-powered heating system. These were faults that would have been difficult to address had the building remained in use as a gymnasium.
Fortunately, a gift of $1.9 million from the estate of Mrs. Helen H. King of
Shortly thereafter, work began on converting the gymnasium to a new home for the Department of Technology, and by early 1976 the work was completed.
Perhaps the most visible change involved removing the building’s pitched roof and adding a new stairwell to the south-east corner. The interior was completely renovated and labs for wood technology, graphic arts, lapidary, photography, plastics, printing and power mechanics were added. Most recently, computer design and robotics facilities have been included.
John Taft, son of Elias Fairbanks and Alverta Jane (Melhorn) Taft, was born on
In 1928, Mr. Taft became a trustee of
See The National Cyclopedia of Biography, vol. 31, pp. 72-3 for more details