Historic Gym Receives Grant For Restoration in Trenton

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Trenton's old historic gym is finally undergoing restoration and is hoped to be ready for use by early 2016. A long-awaited grant made restoration possible for the 76-year-old gym, which is beloved by the community. Photo courtesy of Patricia Powers.
Trenton’s 76-year-old gym is undergoing restoration and is hoped to be ready for use by early 2016. A long-awaited grant made restoration possible. Photo courtesy of Patricia Powers.

About 30 years ago, Rob Rankin played a basketball game against Trenton Middle School. He doesn’t remember whether his team won.

Instead, he remembers the atmosphere and experience of playing in Trenton High School’s historic gym.

The indoor gym was one of the first in the area when it was built in 1939. Its interior was state of the art at the time, a treat for spectators in small Gilchrist County.

“You could just tell it had a lot of history to it,” said Rankin, Gilchrist County’s school superintendent.

The gym eventually fell into disrepair, and a lack of funds left it unusable. Now, thanks to a $350,000 grant they received in 2014, major restorations have begun on one of the county’s most treasured buildings.

“It should bring back some memories for a lot of people in this area that played in it through the years,” Rankin said.

It was built alongside Trenton High School and hosted school dances, basketball tournaments and community activities.

“A lot of background goes into that, and since our community has lots of families that have been here for numbers of years, it’s a treasured historical site,” Ronda Adkins, Trenton Elementary School assistant principal said.

In the 1970s, another gym was built on Trenton High School’s campus. In the following decades, the old  gym wasn’t used as much, and started deteriorating. Although the community wanted to save it, there weren’t any funds available for repairs.

In 2002, the school district applied for a grant to have it renovated and moved to the newly built Trenton Elementary School so its students could have an indoor gym. A few years later, the county received a historical preservation grant for $50,000.

With additional funds, the gym was finally transported to the elementary school in 2005, Rankin said.

After the gym’s roof was found to be sagging, the damage was attributed to the one-mile move, and the gym was deemed unsafe for use.

The school district continued to apply for grants for almost a decade to help restore the building, and in 2014 it was finally awarded $350,000, he said.

That grant made the gym’s restoration possible, and construction on the roof and ceiling began in September. A new fire sprinkler system was also installed. New lighting will be added, and ramps and stairs will be built on the exterior to make the gym handicap accessible, Rankin said. 

The bathrooms need to be redone, and a replica fountain of the one currently at Trenton High School is being built in front of the gym.

To raise the additional funds needed to make these projects happen, the county is selling the community personalized bricks that will help construct a walkway leading to the gym’s entrance, Rankin said.

Despite the major renovation needed, the old gym will look quite similar to when it was first built. The original floors remain, and the old manual scoreboard is being repaired. 

Rankin said he hopes the gym will be ready for use by either January or February. The entire community will be able to use it for events and gatherings.

Adkins said the gym will greatly benefit Trenton Elementary students, who will finally have an indoor recreational area and will be able to use the gym for physical education classes during bad weather.

Rankin said the gym is particularly special to the older members of the Trenton community, but these renovations will allow the younger generations to enjoy it now, too.

“It’s just something in history that people can look back on, and even the younger kids now can go in and make some memories in there,” Rankin said.

About Kortney Sweeney

Kortney is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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