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75 years ago, White Lake voters approved building the classic gym
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The White Lake school district’s venerable small gymnasium—beloved and bemoaned by thousands of players and spectators over the decades—is celebrating its 75th year.

It was on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 1939 when voters in the eastern Langlade County district—then as now a bastion of logging and milling—agreed to build a new gymnasium at an estimated cost of between $30,000 and $32,000.

The action came, not through the referendum setting common today, but at a extraordinarily well-attended village meeting. Final tally was 227 in favor to 160 opposed, or 58 percent to 42 percent.

Interestingly, the final margin in the district’s 2011 election to construct a new gymnasium and recreation center was a similar 60 percent to 40 percent margin That project won, at least in part, due to assurances from the district that the old gymnasium would be retained for physical education classes and various community uses and gatherings.

The 1939 gymnasium was built through the Works Progress Administration, a federal program designed to boost employment and improve public works during the Great Depression.

It was one of a series of WPA projects undertaken in the area, with the Antigo’s Fourth Avenue dam, what is now known as Schofield Stadium, and the rock walls that line Spring Brook just a few of many others undertaken in this area.

The projects were known as much for their stylish design and flourishes as their utility. White Lake’s gym, to this day, boasts graceful wooden arches more reminiscent of a church than a sporting venue.

The gym long-ago became the bane of high school basketball teams forced to play in its tiny confines, but it remains a linchpin of the community.

Although various attempts were made to replace the facility through the years, it wasn’t until February, 2007 that the board was presented with a 135-signature petition asking that the district build a new gym.

The board took action a month later, instructing an architect to prepare preliminary plans and cost estimates.

The project remained back-burnered for years, but in November, 2011 voters approved a $2.995 million referendum that included construction of a community recreation facility, men’s and women’s locker rooms, team, locker rooms and an expansive new gymnasium.

Total project cost was about $3.5 million.

The most recent gymnasium project would not have been possible without massive community support, including a willingness on the part of landowners to donate trees that were milled and used in the construction of the collegiate-quality gymnasium floor.

That support hearkens back—just a bit—to that vote taken on a chilly February evening, 75 years ago.


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The White Lake School gymnasium, marking its 75th birthday and still in use for some activities.
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ANTIGO DAILY
JOURNAL
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Antigo, WI 54409
Phone: 715-623-4191
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JOURNAL
EXPRESS
612 Superior Street,
Antigo, WI 54409
Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
MapOnUs Location: (local)

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