Bowen was the second field house built on Eastern's campus. It was constructed at the same time as Goddard and Jones Residence Halls, and Pine Grove Apartments; during a period of growth for the university. Briggs Fieldhouse was simply too small to accommodate the needs of the growing campus population. Bowen Fieldhouse was built as the first stage of a full-scale physical education facility. Later additions to the building would include a gymnasium, swimming pool, additional locker rooms and classrooms (See Warner Gymnasium and Olds/Rob Student Recreation Center). The 88,000 square foot building cost $1.25 million to construct. When Bowen was built, it was one of the largest facilities in the country including basketball, track, and baseball practice areas, also included facilities for outdoor activities like tennis and badminton. It also has indoor classrooms. There was permanent seating for 1,200 spectators and theoretically, additional seating capacity for 6,000. The building also included an 8-laps-to-the-mile track, a hard surfaced infield, a lounge, and a physical therapy room. Bowen Field House saw 351 wins in its 43 years as the home of Eastern's basketball team. Cheering and applause echoed from the steel beams of the building leading a radio announcer on WEMU to refer to the building as "The Old Barn" and the name stuck. Originally, the basketball court was located in front of the balcony and the baskets were at the east and west ends of the court. The floor later switched to north/south direction in 1960.
Bowen was named for the late Wilbur Pardon Bowen, a mathematics instructor and first head of the Department of Physical Education, 1894-1928. He first established a teacher-training course in physical education at Normal College. Professor Wilbur P. Bowen was born July 1863, in Chelsea, Michigan. Bowen graduated from Chelsea High School and taught one year in the county Union School of that township. He entered Normal College in 1883, and graduated with the class of 1887. While attending the University of Michigan, Professor Bowen assisted for three years in the Normal College Mathematics Department. In 1890, Bowen received his Master of Science from the University of Michigan, and then continued his studies at Harvard University under the guidance of Dr. Sargent. Dr. Bowen left Harvard to become the Director of Physical Education at the University of Nebraska, and of all the city schools in Lincoln, Nebraska. Bowen returned to Michigan State Normal College in 1893 to head the new department of Physical Education; a position he held with distinction until the time of his death in September of 1928. Professor Bowen also taught at Columbia University, University of New York, University of California, and the University of Utah.
Wilbur P. Bowen, Professor of Mathamatics and 1st Head of Physical Educaiton Department, 1894 - 1928
Used as an exercise facility by faculty and students; houses the Human Resource Department
Giffels and Vallet, Detroit, MI
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