I don’t think you can call yourself a Hoosier until you have visited Knightstown, Indiana (and Milan, but that’s a story you can read all about right here on Little Indiana if you follow that Milan link). Now, that’s pretty big words, I know, but hear me out. Why would you want to visit the town of Knightstown with just over 2,100 people (as of the 2010 census)? The diner. Oh, wait. I have another reason. This time, it’s two words: basketball history.
If you had a copy of my book (affiliate link), “Little Indiana: Small Town Destinations” in your hand, then you would already know all about this. But if you don’t, well, you can find it at any fine local bookstore or online bookseller. Tip: it will provide all the contact info you need to make planning trips a breeze. But I digress–let’s get back to Knightstown, shall we?
But first, this is a cute little downtown. There is a fantastic diner, Knightstown Diner, that serves up some of the best homemade chips and pork tenderloin sandwiches that you have ever had. The dessert case is always full of homemade items. In other words: irresistible. It ranks among our top places to eat, especially when you factor in the friendly people.
Yes, there is shopping here too. Knightstown has a smattering of antique shops (and you know any warm-blooded Hoosier isn’t going to be able to ignore that one for a minute!) but Knightstown is more than just a cute downtown. Oh, sure, I will show you the sights here in this PBS segment. You can expect to shop and eat, like I said. This is Little Indiana, right? But there’s something more: it’s the site of the Hoosier Gym.
This place has a fantastic history. You can read about some of it in my book. Okay, I’ll wait here while you go get a copy from your local bookstore or favorite online destination. Ready? If you can’t wait, here it is: the Hoosier Gym was built as a community center. It was THE place to see and be seen.
Brief History of the Hoosier Gym
You see, it was 1920, and Knightstown didn’t have a gym. Boys were playing ball above a pharmacy in a Hall or in the basement of a church. They needed a place to actually play. In 1921, a group got together to discuss the lack of a gym–and raised the funding to have one built. They raised more than $14,000–and the gym was built, and ready for use, by December of the same year.
The town faced a new problem: how would they pay for the upkeep? Again, they developed an idea. This time, they would let professional basketball teams use their space, and encouraged players from colleges to play against their own teams.
In 1936, the town took advantage of Federal Works Project Administration funding to renovate the Hoosier Gym. This time, they changed the exterior, added in basement changing rooms, and enjoyed their new lobby. It wouldn’t be until the 1950s when the gym would receive another big change, this time, in the form of three classrooms.
But the 1960s brought change. A new gym was built and the Hoosier Gym was no longer needed. It sat, mostly unused until the 1980s. That’s when it became the site of the movie Hoosiers. The year was 1985 and the old gym would never be the same. It became the perfect large-scale setting with its vintage features.
Plan a Visit to the Site of the Movie “Hoosiers”
Yes, you can visit. It’s tricky to get in. The Hoosier Gym is used for private events so you need to call ahead. Even then, things pop up, as I myself have found out. When they do host an event, they cover the floor to protect it, so even if you are able to peek in beforehand, you wouldn’t get to see it to its full effect. Whenever you get in, I know you will love this interesting peek at movie history. Go Huskers!
Did you enjoy that segment? Why not let the fine folks at PBS know. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into filming these. Who doesn’t like to receive a positive email? You can send PBS an email right here. The goal is to have a full-length in the field show, the kind of thing where I can physically show you what there is to see and do–and to have enough time to do it all.
Small Towns: Destinations, not Drive-Thrus! I’m Jessica Nunemaker and THIS is Little Indiana.
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