Lilian Welsh Hall & the Virginia & Alonzo Decker Jr. Sports and Recreation Center

Lilian Welsh Hall 1954 by Moore and Hutchins
von Borries Pool 1968 by Cohran, Stephenson and Donkervoet
Dance Studio 1968 by Cohran, Stephenson and Donkervoet
Todd Dance Studio 1985 by Cho, Wilks and Benn
Decker Sports and Recreation Center 1991 by Ayers Saint Gross, Inc.
Track and Stadium 2001 construction by Whiting-Turner
Cardio Fitness Center 2008 by Goucher Facilities Management
Strength and Conditioning Center 2009 by Lucas Assoc. Architects
Turf Field Facility at Beldon Field 2009 construction by Whiting-Turner

Since the 1880s, Goucher has placed great emphasis on physical education. In 1889, Bennett Hall, a gift of trustee Benjamin Bennett, opened as a gymnasium for the students of the new Woman's College of Baltimore. Unprecedented, Bennett Hall contained 37 Zander machines, imported from Sweden, a balcony running track, a swimming pool on the ground level and two bowling alleys. Unheard of for women, the College incorporated physical education in to the curriculum, focusing for many years on Swedish gymnastics. Students were required to complete four years of physical education and achieve proficiency in swimming. Under the third chair of the physical education department, Dr. Lilian Welsh, serving as chair from 1894-1924 and also as the College Physician and a Professor of Physiology and Bacteriology, Goucher became a national leader in the field of physical education for women. Not only were the practices and beliefs of the department progressive, the facilities, consisting of several buildings and outdoor courts, were state of the art.

  • Bennett Hall and Bennett Hall Annex, given by Benjamin Bennett, were the primary homes of the Physical Education Department on the City campus, ca. 1895-1900. Photograph courtesy of Goucher College Archival Photograph Collection, 5.4.008b.

In 1943, as the College started selling its City buildings, the Physical Education Department began to lose its facilities at an alarming rate. To help offset this loss of athletic facilities in the City, the McCormick Company donated $5,000 for the construction of tennis courts on the Towson campus. By 1947, when the last of the City gyms was sold, the Physical Education Department became homeless. For the next seven years, the gyms of local schools and colleges, such as Towson High and Towson State College, City College's pool, and local bowling alleys and skating rinks were used by the Department. In 1951, the Department occupied the Barn, originally a service building that became a multipurpose venue. By this time plans were under way for a new athletic facility, and chair of the Department, Eline von Borries, worked tirelessly with the Faculty Planning Committee and the College Administration to design a new home for physical education. Initially designed with a pool however, due to financial constraints, the pool was removed from the plans. In addition to being the home for sports and athletics, the new building was designed to temporally accommodate facilities for theater productions and large assemblies until the construction of an auditorium.

Moore and Hutchins were again contracted to design the gym. In their design, they took great efforts to ensure that the gym harmonized with the existing campus. The gym was an urgent need as by 1952, along with the science building; it was the only facility the new campus was lacking. However, the College lacked the finances to complete the science building and build a gymnasium. It was primarily through the support of the Kresge Foundation, which gave Goucher a $250,000 challenge grant, that the funding was raised and construction could commence on a gym. Finally, in the fall of 1954, after years of planning, fundraising, and borrowing other school's athletic facilities, Goucher finally had a gymnasium again. Goucher had initially honored Dr. Lilian Welsh, the key individual behind the development of Goucher's Physical Education Department and the Department of Physiology and Hygiene, by naming the science building on the Towson campus after her; however, the name was changed to recognize the financial contributions of the Hoffberger family. Naming the gym Lilian Welsh Hall, after Dr. Welsh, Goucher finally gave permanent honor to an important individual in the history of the College with a building devoted to physical education, one of her primary goals.

  • Eline von Borries and Otto Kraushaar break ground for the von Borries Pool, 1967.  Photograph courtesy of the Goucher College Archival Photograph Collection.

Lilian Welsh Hall is faced with Butler stone, concrete block and wood boarding, emphasizing unity with the design elements of campus. A beautiful building, finally providing the Physical Education Department with a permanent home, the building still lacked some of the amenities provided by the City facilities, namely a swimming pool. After a reduction in physical activities for many years caused by the lack of space, the Physical Education Department and concentration of Dance, which later became an independent department, grew significantly with the completion of Lilian Welsh Hall, and more space was soon needed. In 1968, a dance studio was added and also, the long awaited arrival of a swimming pool. Both additions were designed by the architectural firm of Cohran, Stephenson & Donkervoet. The pool was named the Eline von Borries Pool, after Eline von Borries, Professor Emeritus of Physical Education, and chair of the Physical Education Department from 1921-1963. Eline von Borries and President Emeritus Otto Kraushaar celebrated the overall construction of athletic facilities on the campus and the completion of the pool by jumping in; Professor von Borries was clad in a 1912 Goucher bathing suit and Dr. Kraushaar was wearing his business suit. The pool includes overhead garage doors on one wall which can be opened allowing the building to be opened to the outdoors.

The Dance Department continued to grow, outgrowing its single studio. Recognizing the importance of the Department to the College and their increasing need for facilities, a new wing was added to Lilian Welsh Hall in 1985. Trustee Emerita, Elizabeth Conolly Todd, class of 1921, a long time supporter of Goucher dance, made a major donation for the construction of a new dance studio, and as a result the studio was named after her. Todd Dance Studio, designed by Cho, Wilks and Benn extended past the dance studio added in 1968. The building's exterior is made primarily of split block, complementing the exterior of Lilian Welsh Hall.

At the same time, athletics grew and the facilities became insufficient to house all activities. Planning began in 1979 for an addition to Lilian Welsh Hall; however, it would be several years before an addition was added. Facilities were already to maximum capacity in the early 1980s and with the advent of male teams following the decision of the College to become coed, an expansion became a necessity. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 5, 1988 for a new athletics center, known as the Sports and Recreation Center. Designed by Ayers Saint Gross, Inc. the new athletics center opened in 1991 and is connected to Lilian Welsh Hall, sitting in front of the original facility in an effort to bring the athletic facilities closer together with the rest of campus. Faced with Butler stone, the building is characteristic of the Goucher campus, representing many of the major design elements on campus. A major feature is a new gymnasium with bleacher seating to accommodate spectators at sporting events, a feature that was lacking in the original gymnasium. Due to the large size of the campus property, the Physical Education and Athletic Departments have been very fortunate to have ample playing fields. In 2000, two tennis courts were added increasing the total number to eight. The following year, in response to the addition of a track and field team and the improvement of the lacrosse teams, a track and stadium field was constructed.

  • The Decker Sports and Recreation Center, the addition to Lilian Welsh Hall, 1991.  Photograph courtesy of the Goucher College Archival Photograph Collection, 3.9.003.

In 2008, in recognition of the generous bequest of Virginia and Alonzo Decker Jr. to the College, the Sports and Recreation Center was renamed the Virginia & Alonzo Decker Jr. Sports and Recreation Center. A major portion of their gift is being used to increase and improve the College’s athletic facilities. A new Cardio Fitness Center, a 2,700 square foot Strength and Conditioning Center, and the conversion of Beldon Field into a 105,000 square foot infill synthetic turf field with lights have all been made possible by the Deckers’ gift. The new Turf Field Facility at Beldon Field will greatly increase practice time for both NCAA teams and intramural sports. Also part of the current renovation is the creation of a new dance studio from the current racquetball courts, named after Harriet Sauber Eisner, class of 1943.

For more historical photographs, please visit the Goucher College Digital Library.

Lilian Welsh
Eline von Borries
Jo Fiske
Elizabeth Conolly Todd
Virginia and Alonzo Decker Jr.
Harriet Sauber Eisner