Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Caldwell Field House

TigerBlog had just finished his workout routine and was back in Caldwell Field House, ready to take a shower.

If you've ever been in Caldwell, there's a door to the left, as you walk into the main part of the men's locker room, that leads into a coaches' area. That's where TB's locker is.

There's also a shower room in that area, and that's where TB has been showering for years now.

Yesterday he put his towel on the hook and went to turn on the water, only to learn that there were no shower heads on the showers anymore. There is the big shower room in Caldwell, so that's where TB had to go.

The walls of Caldwell used to be lined with old football pictures. Most of them were celebration shots within the field house itself, after big wins. All of the pictures were black and white.

Some had players with cigars in postgame victory. Most of the pictures featured players whose uniforms were covered in mud and grass stains, things that you don't seen much anyway, what with most everyone on synthetic grass.

TigerBlog thought of those pictures yesterday when he was in the locker room, which is odd, since he's in the locker room basically every day. Why all of this popped into his mind yesterday of all days he has no idea.

Still, it's all very fascinating.

Charles W. Caldwell Jr. was a 1925 Princeton grad and a member of the famous 1922 "Team of Destiny," the one whose motto was "A Team That Won't Be Beaten Can't Be Beaten." He then coached at Williams College before coming back to coach his alma mater, which he did from 1945 through 1957, when he passed away. As an undergraduate, he also was a baseball pitcher, and TigerBlog is pretty sure that he pitched at some point for the Yankees.

Caldwell is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He coached Princeton to its longest winning streak ever, a 24-game run from 1949 through 1952, and among the players he coached was Dick Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner.

The field house that bears his name opened in 1963. It was built a short walk from Palmer Stadium, the football stadium at the time.

TigerBlog has spent more than his share of time in Caldwell. He's seen football players live in the field house itself during preseason practice. He's gone to any number of postgame press conferences there, in football, basketball and lacrosse. He laughed out loud at the words of wisdom that came out of the mouth of longtime equipment manager Hank Towns.

And, of course, he's had his locker there for years.

For some reason, yesterday was the first time he ever really considered a few things about the building that his office window has faced for more than 20 years.

First, there's the history of the place. How many athletes have called its lockerrooms home, for both men and women? How many great celebrations have taken place there? How many silent nights have been spent there as teams quietly showered and left after tough losses?

The answer to all of those questions is "a lot."

Then there was the other thought that TB had yesterday.

If Caldwell Field House was built in 1963 and Palmer Stadium was built in 1914, where did the football team dress for all those years?

Palmer Stadium did not have showers. That, TB assumes, is why the need for Caldwell existed in the first place.

When Caldwell was built, Jadwin Gym didn't exist. It wouldn't for another six years. What was there in the meantime? A big open space?

Anyway, TigerBlog assumed that the Armory building, which used to sit where the chemistry building is now, had showers and locker rooms.

To be sure, he asked John McPhee, whose father was the Princeton team physician and who literally grew up around Princeton football. As it turned out, TigerBlog was wrong.

According to Mr. McPhee, the football team had locker rooms in the University Field House. This created more questions than answers, as TB isn't sure where that was. If it was the University Gymnasium, then it was destroyed by fire in 1944.

Anyway, TB replied to Mr. McPhee with his questions. He'll let you know the answers.

In the meantime, the Caldwell Field House is more than just the building between Jadwin and the football stadium and track. It's more than just a place to get showered and dressed after working out.

It's a huge part of the history of Princeton Athletics.

So, too, is its namesake.


Anonymous said...

I never realized that Caldwell Field House was built before Jadwin Gym.

Boy, Princeton is lucky that Caldwell was located offset to the left from the direct southward view from the horseshoe of Palmer Stadium. The natural or default position is to put it smack dab in the middle of the horseshoe. Look at the configuration of Franklin Field, Harvard Stadium and other horseshoes such as Ohio Stadium or Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium. That's where everybody sticks their locker rooms.

Only Princeton in its farsighted wisdom left that space empty so that one day it could build a futuristic, spaceship-themed airplane hangar there.

Nassau83 said...

Long post...Re: The Fieldhouse, also known as the Osborn Fieldhouse or Clubhouse. The EQuad sits was the site that was the longtime home of much of Princeton Athletics. The old Osborn Field House became the Third World Center (later renamed for Carl Fields) and was enlarged with a very non-descript cinder block addition. It was torn down to make way for the Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment. The Osborns were deeply devoted to the University, with one serving as a charter trustee. In addition to the Fieldhouse, they also made the gift to build Dodge-Osborn Hall. Both Henry and Frederick Osborn are somewhat controversial these days due to their views on eugenics. Quite a few alums and architects were disappointed that the central field house structure (excluding the cinder block addition) could not be preserved or moved. Some links below (more information than anyone probably wants!).


Sept 18, 1896 article in NYT - need to be a subscriber:

Athletics at Princeton - see pp. 61-66:

The Osborns:

Henry Osborn (made the gift for the Field House):

Frederick Osborn (Brother):

The recent dialogue about preservation:






Unknown said...

The football team dressed at the Osborn Clubhouse and then walked down Roper Lane to Palmer Stadium. The Osborn Clubhouse was located on the northeast corner of Olden Street and Prospect Avenue, adjacent to the site of the former University Field now occupied by the Engineering Department complex. The University Field was the football field before Palmer Stadium was built. Baseball was played there before Clarke Field was built. Lacrosse was also played at University Field. Osborn Clubhouse was taken down in 2011. Steven Feldman '68

Anonymous said...

1911 Football Field House was donated by Cyrus McCormick 1879 and located by the Stadium. The Osborne Field House, at University Field, was too remote for football lockers.

Unknown said...

I remember the football players walking down Roper Lane from the Osborn Clubhouse to Palmer Stadium. The old University Field was the baseball field before Clarke Field was built. It was also the old football field until Palmer Stadium was built. The lacrosse team also played there.
Steven Feldman '68

Unknown said...

I think anonymous is correct. My memory was wrong about the football players walking down Roper Lane from the Osborn Clubhouse.