Thompson Hall: A Breakthrough For Women

| July 21, 2010

Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Hall, opened in 1894, was the first facility in Morningside Heights to provide advanced physical education facilities for women students according to Andrew S. Dolkart’s Morningside Heights: A History of Its Architecture and Development. Women were not allowed to use the gym at Columbia University.

Thompson was equipped with a swimming pool, handball courts, bowling alleys, exercise rooms, and a locker and shower room  as well as a gymnasium.  The building also included classrooms, laboratories and examination rooms for those planning to teach physical education.  The scientific training of physical education teachers was taken as seriously as any other discipline.

The building connected Main Hall with the Horace Mann School and blended with the facade of Horace Mann, sporting a freestanding entrance portico,  diaper brick work, gables, dormers and a cupola. The first floor halls were distinguished by mustard yellow octagonal tiles capped with a distinctive leaf-and-berry border and a marble bas-relief of Frederick Ferris Thompson and his dog, Uncle Fred, carved by Augustus St. Gaudens.