FINAL BUZZER: Fond memories recalled of former gym building amid demolition

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Rubble piles up on the site of a building that formerly served as gymnasiums for Greenfield High School and Lincoln Park Elementary School before it became a parking garage for Lincoln Park Apartments. The structure, which is nearly 100 years old and has mold throughout, is being demolished to make way for more parking and an outdoor amenity for apartment residents.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD – Mike Edwards walked to all of his basketball games in the gymnasium at the old Greenfield High School in the 1960s.

It was on the maple floor of that brick building where he earned the nickname the “Greenfield Gunner,” set a 2,343-point school career record, once scored 57 points in a game and posted a state-leading 36.4 scoring average.

“Great atmosphere in that gym,” Edwards said. “Packed. It was electric when you came through the door. I walked to all the games there, and I can remember walking up there, seeing the lights at the gym, going in, seeing all the people. It had a distinct smell about it, and it was just a real special place. It was a gathering place for the community on Friday and Saturday night; everyone was on the same page.”

Those are just some of the many memories that fill the history of the building, which is coming to an end. The nearly 100-year-old structure is being demolished to make way for parking and an amenity for the nearby apartment complex the school building was renovated into years ago.

The former gym building was used as a parking garage up until recently for Lincoln Park Apartments, located at 600 W. North St. in Greenfield. For decades, the property served as Greenfield High School before it became Lincoln Park Elementary School.

PRE/3, a real estate management firm in Brookfield, Wisconsin, bought the property for $400,000 last December.

Demolition of the former gym building started March 1 and is expected to complete by the end of the month, said property manager Scott Evans. He added that mold overtaking the property would have cost around $240,000 to remedy.

“Unfortunately the cost of repairs outweigh the costs to keep it,” he said.

The space left by the structure will be used to straighten out the surrounding parking lot and create an outdoor space with a fireplace for residents to sit and relax, Evans said.

Chronicle of the court

Greenfield High School opened to students at the corner of School and North streets in 1926. An article by Brigette Cook Jones for the Hancock County Historical Society recalls that the school’s gymnasium just to the north was built to span over 11,000 square feet and with a capacity to seat 2,700 people.

The gym’s dedication and first game was on Feb. 4, 1927. Admission was 50 cents, and the Greenfield Tigers boys second team beat Wilkinson High School 23-10.

The last class to graduate from the high school was in 1969, as Greenfield consolidated with Hancock Central and resulted in the construction of Greenfield-Central High School. The former high school then became Lincoln Park Elementary School. Lincoln Park closed in 2002 with the opening of J.B. Stephens Elementary School.

The final official game played in the gym building was in 2002 between teams from Lincoln Park and Harris elementary schools.

In a Daily Reporter article about that final game, Lincoln Park coach Tom Gardner said the young athletes wouldn’t realize their place in the gym’s history “until they grow up.”

Kenny Godsey was part of the last fifth-grade class to go to Lincoln Park Elementary School and played in that final basketball game. Now that he has grown up, he finds his former coach’s words ringing true.

“It’s sad just to see it get tore down,” Godsey said. “That was my childhood in that gym. My parents would come watch me play basketball, we’d do our programs and stuff in there, and just to see it get tore down is kind of saddening. And eye-opening – how fast you grow.”

A developer bought the Lincoln Park Elementary School property in 2003 with plans to convert it into senior living apartments. The gym building underwent its transition to a garage in 2005.

Lay-ups and look-backs

Before he became the “Greenfield Gunner,” Edwards made the Tigers’ varsity team as a freshman. He played for the high school from 1965 to 1969, and was part of the last class to graduate from there before going on to play at the University of Tennessee.

“You get four shots to try to make some kind of mark on the game, and you get four shots to try to maybe go on and pursue a career in college, and really that gym was all the starting point for me,” Edwards said.

He can remember losing only one game in the gym throughout his four years.

“It was a real home court advantage, because all the fans came down right on the court,” Edwards said. “It was a tough place for opponents to come in there.”

He remembers playing the high school’s last game in the gym against Morristown. Before the match-up, players were asked if they wanted to play in the gym they’d always known or the recently built one at the new Greenfield-Central High School.

“The vote wasn’t even close,” Edwards said. “We were going to play in the old gym.”

The game ball from that contest is on display in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle.

“I’m really sad, like everyone else, because we were the last class to graduate from there, and it’s kind of like taking a part of us,” Edwards said of the building’s demolition. “And sad for all the other students and teams that went through there.”

He added he doesn’t blame anyone for not preserving the structure, but that its demise leaves him feeling a little angry.

“Indiana basketball is so different than other parts of the country,” he said. “…I hate to see any historical building come down. Don’t care what they are; because once you tear them down, they’re gone. … I’m not going to be able to go up there and see it anymore.”

John Holt went to Greenfield High School with Edwards and was the mascot for the Tigers. One memory of the gym that sticks out to him is Carmel High School and its soon-to-be 1968 Indiana Mr. Basketball Billy Shepherd coming to play in Greenfield.

“They came here with two or three fan buses,” Holt said. “They stopped the fan buses out in front of the gym, and the JV game had not even started yet, and they started unloading the buses and when they got to the door, they were told, ‘I’m sorry, we’re already sold out.’ Most all games when I was in school in the late 60s were sold out anyway.”

That game drew particular interest because of the formidable opponent.

“And by golly, we beat them,” Holt said.

Donna Bland attended second grade on the property shortly after its transition to Lincoln Park Elementary School. She remembers how the gym doubled as the cafeteria by pushing the benches back and bringing out tables.

“After school me and my friends used to go in there and sit and hang out,” Bland said.

She lived a street over from the school and would go over to play basketball and take part in other activities in the gym.

Bland said the demolition of the building leaves her sad.

“We’re losing so much of Greenfield’s history,” she said. “…At least they kept the school and turned them into apartments.”

Jaye Smith attended Lincoln Park Elementary School from 1996 until its last year as a school in 2002. Other relatives of hers studied there as well, including her great-grandfather when it was a high school.

Smith remembers going to the gym for physical education class, assemblies, an annual carnival, basketball games and spring and Christmas programs. She recalled the building hosting circuses that came to town as well.

“I’m a little sad about it,” she said of the demolition, “but I understand it’s an old building and it probably hasn’t been updated for a long time. … It’s just been such a staple and a fixture there for 90-some years.”