The Wilkinson gym began to fall out of use when the college consolidated with nearby Charlottesville High School in 1965. The constructing was sold within the Seventies to an area family searching for a bigger space for its ironmongery shop. For a time the family also used an adjoining classroom constructing — which has since been demolished — as a restaurant serving homey classics like beef Manhattan and pork, beans and potatoes.
“People would are available and say, ‘Huh, that is the old basketball floor, isn’t it?’” said Terry Molden, 79, who owned the shop along with his family. “And I might say, ‘Yeah, and also you’re out of bounds.’ ”
Twenty years ago, the Molden family sold the gym to Jeff and Christy Broady, an area couple, who lived within the gym while regularly constructing the house, piece by piece, throughout them. The value back then was $85,000, in line with Wilson, who worked on the deal, with few people interested.
Today, people have been clamoring to get inside.
Soon after the Petrys moved in, a number of local children followed the Petrys’ kids off the college bus and into their home to play. The following day, there have been a number of more. The number kept trickling upward, until sooner or later there have been almost 20 children shooting hoops and riding bicycles across the court.
“I used to be like, ‘Do your parents know that you just’re here?’” Lauren Petry said, laughing.
Older residents have taken notice, too. The day before the family moved in, an anonymous visitor dropped off a box of black-and-white photos of the gym with a note that read, “I believe you need to have these.” The Petrys were also given a dust stack of yearbooks from the Fifties.