In Charlottesville by the early 1950's, patronage for the improvement of recreational facilities had borne such fruits as the Old Armory building which was the central headquarters and main recreational building for white citizens. The only comparable indoor facility for blacks was the small building at Washington Park (the larger of the two black parks in the City) which was called "the Barn" by locals. This building served many demands since there was no gymnasium in the existing black high school. The City Director of Recreation pointed out that often as many as 300 black spectators crowded into this relatively small building to witness athletic events, and she intimated that it was unsanitary, uncomfortable, and dangerous for them to do so. Moreover, the absence of dressing rooms and showers in "the Barn" further restricted its use as a gymnasium. The building at Benjamin Tonsler Park (the other park for blacks) was opened for recreational use in the winter of 1949. In comparing white and black recreational facilities, the City Director of Recreation stated that the blacks have two year round recreational centers, namely, the buildings in Washington Park and Benjamin Tonsler Park, whereas the whites have one, the Old Armory building.
In the building at Washington Park there were two pool tables as well as a badminton court and a basketball court that occupied the same part of the floor. The building also had a game room and a snack bar. The snack bar took in about $4,000 a year which was used to purchase equipment for the park. This was practically the only money spent at the park on equipment and it proved to be insufficient.
The Barn also could not accommodate the many spectators who liked to attend the indoor athletic events. African Americans were enthusiastic supporters of their school's basketball teams. Unfortunately, many were denied admittance because of the building's lack of space. Many people believed that the space problem would be solved upon the completion of the consolidated black high school in the early 1950's. The new high school was slated to have a gymnasium with more space and modern facilities.
Next: History of Playgrounds
(Source: James Worsham Barksdale, A Comparative Study of Contemporary White and Negro Standards in Health, Education, and Welfare, Charlottesville, Virginia. A Thesis Presented to The Faculty of the Department of Sociology of The University of Virginia, May 1950.)