On Thursday of this week (May 16, 2013) we stood on Xavier University’s Campus and watched the wrecking balls dismantle a building so dear to the hearts of many of our readers. The Barn, as it has been called, will be no more. Its doors closed in July of 2011. It has sat in silence since then, but met its final fate this past week.
In an article for the Clarion Herald (7/20/2011), Ron Brocato writes, “Xavier University’s 74-year-old basketball palace is considered by many one of the city’s forgotten treasures that will never take its place among the landmarks in New Orleans’ registry of historic icons. Instead it will soon succumb to the claws of progress and crumble back to the earth from which it sprang.”
Let’s take a short look back in time…
It all began on Tuesday, November 2,1937 at a dedication ceremony for the new $47,000 gymnasium opening for use on the rapidly-growing campus of Xavier University. The dedication exercises began with an impressive procession from the main building on campus to the gymnasium. Xavier’s band, chorus, student body and faculty led the way and was followed by the Most Reverend Joseph Francis Rummel, Archbishop of New Orleans.
In his address, the Archbishop stressed the advantage of a well-rounded education (spiritually, physically, intellectually) and dedicated the building to the athletic and social enjoyment of the student body and friends of Xavier. After the ceremonies had been completed, a social for the students was given in the gymnasium. Music was furnished by Allegretto Alexander and his Xavier Swing Band, the hit band sensation of the season.
The building (shown above) was meant to be temporary in construction, but it remained as the permanent structure with two wings eventually being added in order to accommodate its growing needs.
Whether dancing to the swinging sounds of the forties and fifties, the rock and roll of the fifties and sixties, or the disco of the seventies; the sounds of polished loafers and saddle-oxfords will never again be heard across The Barn’s floor.
As a basketball facility, the building has also left its mark on history. The 1942-43 team included 6-foot-8 Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton. After serving in the Army during World War II following his graduation, Clifton played two years with the Harlem Globetrotters before becoming one of the first African Americans to be signed to an NBA contract with the New York Knicks. Xavier’s men won 50 straight games in the early 1970s while Xavier’s women topped that by winning 51 in a row in the late 1990s.
The Barn became a building where many alumni have returned over the years to reflect on their time spent at Xavier and as a place that many hate to see destroyed, but The Barn is no longer able to meet the needs of a contemporary university.
The 4,500 seat multipurpose facility, known as the Convocation Center, has now replaced the 1,300 seat gymnasium of yesteryear. Located across Washington Avenue, near the main campus, it was dedicated on November 3, 2012. It now houses the athletic programs as well as other large-scale events. Events that could never be held in The Barn. The old has to give way to the new if we are to progress, but the memories of The Barn will always remain with us.
Sources: Xavier University Archives : photo of The Barn from 1937 and copy of The [Xavier] Herald 1937; The Clarion Herald, 20 July 2011 article written by Ron Brocato; www.xula.edu/athelics/cac.