The Women's Building (PWA)

The Women's Building (PWA). Now a part of the UA Student Union's Gallagher Theater.
The Women's Building (PWA). Now a part of the UA Student Union's Gallagher Theater.

The Women's Building was completed in April, 1936, as another PWA-financed project. It was designed by Roy Place and built by the M. M. Sundt Co.

It is now an extension of the Student Union Building to the east and was altered by architect James McMillan, who was once chief draftsman for Roy Place, when the Student Union was built, into what is now the Gallagher Theatre. To the north of the Women's Building and attached was a women's swimming pool, still in use. Original cost was $139,980. Alterations were made in 1966 at a cost of $22,568.

The Women's Building was two stories high and 116 feet by 116 feet. The gymnasium floor, where women's basketball was played was 60 feet by 92 feet. There was no second floor, but the gymnasium stretched two stories high.

The original intention for the building's use was to mark it as a center for all women's interests, not merely Physical Education. Originally, plans called for a dance floor in the basement, but later this area served as a sort of student union.

It was entered by a stairway going down from the building's west side. The basement had the dance floor, pool tables and a students' book store. Fraternities used the area for dances and it was rented out to other organizations. The university sponsored dances for Army and Navy cadets, and women students, during World War II.

Lew Place served as clerk of the works for his father on this and other PWA buildings. "The end walls of the Women's Building were gabled," Lew Place recalls. "They used gabled steel trusses and there was a crane that Sundt had placed inside to lift the trusses into place.

"I was sitting on the east wall, on the top of it, watching the builder put the trusses in place. The crane would turn them crosswise and raise them, turn them around again and set them in place on vertical beams with plates on them.

"Not far from where I was sitting, they were trying to set one truss and it was missing the bolt hole by about an inch and one man was telling the crane man to move the boom over. The crane man got it against the bolt and he was moving it and the whole wall moved about two inches. It scared me. 1 got off that wall in nothing flat for fear it was coming down. When they took the pressure of the crane off, the wall just bounced back and not a crack in it."

The wall still stands as part of the Gallagher Theatre.

Lew Place was working part time as clerk of the works while attending the university. On the Women's Building, a tarp had been placed over the stairwell to the basement and Lew was looking for PLACES IN THE SUN 79 Sundt's superintendent. "I stepped right out onto the tarp and through the opening to the basement and landed right on top of LaRue, the superintendent. He said, 'Where did you come from?' I said I was looking for him. He said, 'You damn near killed me.' I said that I was sorry I didn't."

In May, 1936, about a year before the Women's Building was completed, Ina E. Gittings, UA Director of Physical Education for Women, wrote President Shantz and the Board of Regents a letter of complaint.

Miss Gittings, according to Dean of Women Evelyn Kirmse, knew what she wanted and "she'd fight a circle saw to get it." She owned a piece of property on what is called Ina Road today, west of Oracle Road on the north side of Ina. She objected because the people of Tucson called the road "Eyena" when she insisted in numerous letters to the newspapers that it was "Eena" road, when properly pronounced. It was named for her and she called herself "Eena."

Mrs. Krimse, still in the employ of the university writing a history of the UA, says of Ina Gittings today, "We fought like two kinds of cats, but I respected her. We were good friends." 
Miss Gittings' letter to Shantz and the Regents:


During one of the final conferences, May, 1935, of the Architect, University President, and Committee, regarding plans for the Women's Building, University of Arizona, there was a decided change in the locker room plans of said building. These changes were made because Miss Gittings insisted that the space. Allotted would not be adequate for even the present needs of University women and allowed nothing for expansion.

At the time the Architect was instructed to layout a small locker room in the other wing of the building in addition to the locker room already planned. This new locker room was designated as space for women majors in physical education. There was a distinct understanding that this new plan was not for future expansion but for present need. Some effort was made by the Architect to leave a margin along the swimming pool for future extension of locker space. However, the expansion should come by additions to the large locker room, making for easier administration. The change of plans in reversing the locker room from West to East makes this plan impossible. (Change of East and West position of locker room was distinctly against advice and request of Ina E. Gittings.)

The present locker room space is barely adequate for needs of University Women." 
Respectfully, Ina E. Gittings, Director of Physical Education For Women

It was a sharp letter and apparently UA President Homer LeRoy Shantz was not a man to become sharp with. He answered Miss Gittings' letter in a note dated May 30, 1936, with carbon copies going to Roy Place, W.O. Sweek, Chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, W.J. Bray, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, and to "My Successor."

Shantz's letter to Miss Gittings:

A letter signed by Ina E. Gittings and addressed to the Board of Regents and the President of the University of Arizona has been turned over to me for replay by Mr. Roy Place.

Consulting the original request submitted in 1934, we find you then asked for 440 lockers. A subsequent request submitted in June, 1935, asked for 474 lockers. The present building contains 460 lockers. Originally planned as a $90,000 building, of which a large portion was to go to the recreation hall, the plans were modified to save roofing and increase the size, placing the recreation hall in the basement and increasing the cost to $140,000. Every effort was made to make this building as near the requirements of the Director of Physical Education as possible, and no change was made without her consent.

I have a report from the architect and the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds that the greatest complaints have come on those specifications which followed your requests implicitly. The change of the locker room from the west side to the east side of the building was made at your request and yours only. I think it is the uniform feeling of those who have had to deal with you in this matter that we all wish you personally were back in old Herring Hall. (The former women's gymnasium.) I am glad for the students that they are to have the increased facilities but apparently there is no way of pleasing you.

Very truly yours, HL. Shantz, President, University of Arizona.

It may be speculated with some accuracy that Ina E. Gittings was not pleased. 
And where the locker rooms ended up, west or east, no one seems to remember.

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