The Art Moderne style, reinforced concrete Shelton Gymnasium was constructed as a high school gym in 1939-40, designed by prominent northwest architect Joseph Wohleb, and used for that purpose until 1974. The entire high school complex was been torn down except for the gym, which for many years stood as a reminder of the community’s hopes as it shook off the Great Depression. Although it was eligible for both state and national registers, the building was not listed.
After allowing significant deterioration by neglect, the Shelton School Board announced in 2003 that it was considering demolition. The public reacted by forming The Friends of the Shelton Gymnasium, which began efforts to save and revitalize the gym. The School Board acquiesced to the public interest but voted to allow just nine months for the Friends to raise one million dollars and propose a revitalization plan. The Washington Trust immediately joined in the effort, placing the building on its 2003 Most Endangered Places list.
With support from the Washington Trust, the Friends nominated the gym to the National Register, completed a historic structures report, a feasibility study, and an estimate of rehabilitation costs. The Friends also employed legal steps to prevent demolition, but were unable to overcome the Board’s predetermined decision. The Shelton Gymnasium was demolished in May 2005.
Read more from our “40 for 40” featured story from the Washington Trust’s 40th anniversary in 2016.