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A Snapshot in History: WU Athletics and a New Campus, 1900-1915

From the collections of University Archives

Francis Gymnasium

Construction of the new campus began in 1900. 

A cornerstone ceremony was a tradition for all the new buildings on campus. In each cornerstone, there was a box installed which contained mementoes of the day, such as the program and invitation, University course catalogs, photo-engravings of the new buildings and programs from their ceremonies, current newspapers, publications about the World’s Fair, and more.

►See what the cornerstone from Francis Gymnasium looked like when removed in 2014

The original buildings on campus, built 1900-1904:

  • Busch Hall
  • University Hall, renamed Brookings Hall (and pictured below)
  • Cupples I & II
  • Liggett Dormitory [renamed Prince Hall]
  • Ridgley Library [now Holmes Lounge]
  • Tower Hall [renamed Lee Hall, and now Umrath Hall]
  • Eads Hall
  • Francis Gymnasium and  Francis Field

Brookings Hall under construction


Early Athletics

When founded in 1853 Washington University's first campus was located in downtown St. Louis between 17th & 18th Street and  Washington Ave / St. Charles Street. Downtown students played football, handball, gymnastics, track, crew, and hockey, however, there were inadequate facilities.

The move to the new campus in January 1905  was the first time the athletic teams trained and played in their own splendidly equipped gymnasium and athletic field. The University athletic teams took the name Pikers, from the World’s Fair Pike, a one-mile entertainment strip. While some teams were able to play at the new campus during 1904, starting in 1905 all the WU athletic teams played at the new facility including men’s baseball, basketball, track, tennis, and football.

The Women’s Athletic Association started in 1911. Their teams included basketball, tennis, and indoor track events including running high jump, standing high jump, standing broad jump, combination jump, traveling rings, shot put held in the Gymnasium.

World's Fair

The University leased its new buildings to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company for use during the 1904 World’s Fair (April – December 1904). Lease of the buildings helped fund construction of additional buildings, including the Gymnasium building and the Athletic Field. These facilities were used for various sports programs from July 1 to November 23, 1904 as well as the 1904 Olympic games held from August 29 to September 3 as the 3rd Olympiad of the modern era and the first held in the western hemisphere.

Below is a view of the World's Fair as it looked from the Brookings Hall archway:

About the Exhibit

The exhibit  “A Snapshot in History: WU Athletics and a New Campus, 1900-1915”  is on display in Olin Library’s Grand Staircase Lobby, October - December, 2015.   It was curated by University Archives, Department of Special Collections.

For more information: or 314-935-5495