Due to the Depression the University was unable to begin the gymnasium wing for the use of women. The men and women students were left with a most unsatisfactory arrangement of dividing various hours during the week in Waterman Gymnasium. In December of 1895, Regent Levi L. Barbour, of Detroit, gave the University several lots in Detroit which were to be used for an art building. At the January 1898 Regents' meeting, however, Regent Fletcher moved that "in view of the genrosity of Regent Emeritus Barbour in giving property valued at $25,000 to aid in the erection of the Women's Building on the campus, that hereafter the building be known as the Barbour Gymnasium." Apparently, there was some verbal agreement that a part of this gift should be considered as a gift to the women's buildling rather than toward an art building (U of M Encyclopedic Survey, p. 1582)
Barbour Gymnasium was built as a part of the Waterman Gymnasium building, and the two gymnasiums were connected by doors which could be thrown open on special occasions, such as the University Senate receptions and the annual Junior Hop, which for years were held in the two buildings.
For many years the Barbour Gymnasium was the center of all women’s activities. Originally, all of the first-floor space, with the exception of the gymnasium, was used as parlors and as offices for the Dean of Women and the Department of Physical Education for Women. The Gymnasium was frequently used for large social occasions.
The first floor, with its oak-paneled walls and beams and dramatic staircases opening onto the large gymnasium, was used for calisthenics, drills, and other physical education classes, while the smaller gym was used as a assembly hall.
The marble floored basement was the scene of many suppers and picnics, and gallons of fudge were cooked on the smoky old stove in the kitchen. (Michigan Alumnus, 11/1/1947)
Barbour Gymnasium - Swimming Tank
The small gymnasium or assembly room on the second floor became the center of dramatic life and social events. Women’s societies gave plays on the small stage, class “stunts”, parties, and many receptions, recitals and dances were given in this Hall. (Michigan Alumnus, 11/1/1947)
In June of 1905 the Assembly Hall was named in honor of Sarah Caswell Angell, in recognition of all that she had done for the women of the University of Michigan.
“All of her life Sarah Angell had been active in the work of women for their betterment, as well as actively interested in the relief of the poor and the religious welfare of the city, a work that greatly endeared her to all. In Ann Arbor she was noted for her great dignity and graciousness as the leading university hostess. At every 'Junior Hop' she met and welcomed every bud, debutante and society woman who attended the brilliant functions. She was seldom seen on the streets of Ann Arbor, and then only in a quaint, old fashioned carriage, drawn by the president’s fine span of horses." (Sarah Angell’s obituary in the Detroit Journal, December 1903.)
The Sarah Caswell Angell Hall was condemned as a theater in the middle 1920’s, and its seating capacity was limited to 250 several years before the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater was completed. The Hall was then used for instruction in dancing. The basement of Barbour Gymnasium also houses a fencing room and a record room.
The offices of the Dean of Women were moved to the Administration Building when it was opened in 1948; the Department of Physical Education for Women continued to be housed on the first floor, which was renovated. A well-equipped corrective room occupied a part of this space.
Barbour Gymnasium was torn down in 1946.