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Butler Gymnasium was built in 1936, and was named to honor U.S. Senator Hugh Butler, a Nebraska native and long-time member and chairman of the Doane College Board of Trustees. The current gymnasium portion of the building was actually a renovation of a wood frame barn-like structure that was built by Doane students in about 1915. The original building was covered over in brick, and the engaged buttresses were added to the east and west facades. The interior walls and flooring are original from the wood frame structure.
Senator Butler served the college from 1917 to 1954, and was responsible for Doane being selected as one of 135 sites for the U.S. Navy V-12 and V-5 training program which began in 1943. Doane's selection as a Navy training site came at a critical time in college history when enrollment was at an all-time low due to World War II. The seven-year-old gymnasium was refurbished in 1943 in preparation for the Navy training program, and a swimming pool addition was constructed at this time. This pool is still in use for campus and community recreation, and winter swimming lessons. A classroom addition was placed on the building in 1955. The Navy trainees had specific physical exercise requirements, and Butler Gymnasium was very significant in the education of these men. The building is also significant as a gathering place for campus dances, and sporting activities that represented the campus culture of the era, and remains a viable campus building.