The beautiful building you see above played a fascinating part in the history of basketball. Quintessentially American, basketball was invented by James Naismith in Massachusetts in 1891, so it might surprise you to learn that what you see here is the oldest basketball court in the world - in Paris!
The Paris Union was a grand building built for the YMCA in 1893. It was modelled on Springfield College - where basketball was invented - and included a running track, a restaurant, bowling alley, an indoor pool, a theatre hall, a library and a gymnasium. When a lecturer moved to Paris from Massachusetts he brought the game with him - hanging fruit baskets off the running track that ran above the gymnasium. About 40 years later the baskets were replaced with the metal hoops we use today. We imagine those pillars in the middle made for some interesting manoeuvres during matches!
Because Springfield College was sadly lost to a fire, it leaves the Paris Union as the oldest basketball court in the world. As you can see, it's still covered in the original solid oak blocks that have been there for well over 120 years. The running track, meanwhile, features beautiful thin strips of oak swirling around in a circle. It's a true testament to solid wood flooring.
Even for those with no interest in basketball, the building has an eerie beauty to it. It's now protected as a sight of historical value, and only accessible on open days, where you can learn all about its long and colourful history.
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