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Royall Tyler Theater (Old Gym)
Indoor athletic facilities were requisite for colleges by the last quarter of the nineteenth century. A gymnasium was on President Buckham's wish list at the time that H. H. Richardson was working on Billings Library, and the architect prepared sketches for one in 1884. He proposed a gable-front building with a clear-span central space and suspended galleries. Its facade was to be articulated as two stories, the upper zone for a central set of high arched windows, the lower accommodating arched entrances. As finally realized in 1901 through the generosity of John H. Converse, the gym was designed by the Boston firm of Andrews, Jacques, and Rantoul, whose partners had trained in Richardson's office. It is gable fronted, with a high set of arched windows and a great arched first-floor entrance. The broadened first floor is treated like a ba-silica with full-length “aisles” and clerestory windows. The gym's handsome dark brick, simplicity of form, and care in craftsmanship echo Richardson's work.
Until construction of the Municipal Auditorium in 1927, the gym also served as Burlington's principal hall for symphony concerts, plays, and balls. In 1971–1974, Burlington Associates transformed the interior into a 291-seat arena theater named for Royall Tyler, America's first important playwright (The Contrast, 1787), a Vermont state's attorney and chief justice, and professor of law at UVM from 1811 to 1814.
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