Before the construction of Halsey Hall, the women’s gymnasium had been confined to a small space in the basement of Schaeffer Hall known as the Crypt. With a new building and the advent of Elizabeth Halsey as director of women’s physical education (a post she held from 1924 until 1956), the athletic life of female students at the University of Iowa was transformed. Once confined to gymnastics, dance, and hygiene, women were able now to participate more fully in the sport- ing activities previously available only to men. The building, which now houses the Department of Dance and a Recreation Services satellite fitness facility (Fitness East), has also achieved a measure of fame as an exterior shot for the 1980s television sitcom, Coach, the title character of which was loosely based on former UI football coach Hayden Fry.
The building’s origins as a gymnasium appear carved in limestone on the lintel above the front entrance. Although suggestive of Beaux-Arts Classicism, its almost all-brick, less-ornamented, utilitarian character separates it from the more noble buildings rising on the nearby Pentacrest. With its faint classical echoes (portal consoles, pilaster bands, roof-cornice corbels, and pediment), Halsey might be thought of as a temple to the body, in contrast with those nearby porticoed temples to the mind. Situated on the slope of the bluff marked by Jefferson Street, the ground falls away, creating a basement level and allowing for a south façade with a pronounced podium and temple front. Halsey also has some of the most accomplished brickwork on campus. Panels of diagonally laid bricks with central diamonds are repeated beneath the ample second-floor gym windows flanked by brick pilaster bands. Halsey is the best example on campus of the bricklaying technique known as Flemish Bond, which alternates along each course between headers and stretchers.
This building is not accessible to persons with disabilities. It has been determined that the configuration of the building effectively prohibits the construction of reasonable modifications to allow for wheelchair access. The university, however, will use alternate means to provide access to programs and activities presently taking place in the building. Please contact Student Disability Services at (319) 335-1462 for information.