Archive for Thursday, February 28, 1991


February 28, 1991


Dr. James Naismith, inventor of basketball, made Lawrence his permanent home after coming here in 1898 as director of physical education and chaplain at Kansas University.

The citizens of Naismith's birthplace, Almonte, Canada, however, remain well aware of his ties to their area, and according to the Ottawa, Canada, Citizen newspaper, some folks there are working to preserve the Naismith legacy.

Lawrence resident and former student of Naismith, Thomas Ryther, received a December 1990 Citizen clipping that described the preservation effort.

Ryther said the clip came from Garnet and Jane Shaver of Ottawa, a couple he and his wife met in Corpus Christi, Tex., where they once went for the winters.

THE CITIZEN story, by staff writer Julia Elliott, reports on restoration work being done to Naismith's childhood home.

It reads in part, "James Naismith physician and inventor of basketball would have been proud. His former stone home near Almonte will soon look much as it did when he lived there as a child in the 1870s.

Elliott goes on to report new owners Marianne and Greg Smith are restoring the exterior of the "rural Georgian-style house, complete with wrap-around porch."

According to designer John Edwards, who is helping with the project, the house was "very important to the Naismiths. That's why it's still standing. The original builder and owner was not only building for himself but for his descendants. That's why it's built the way it is like a tank."

THE RESTORATION work began in 1989, according to Elliott, when neighbors gave the Smiths an 1890s black-and-white photograph of the house.

Elliott writes, "Aided by the photograph and some original house elements such as shutters and storm windows, Edwards and the Smiths were able to translate turn-of-the-century architectural details into working restoration drawings."

The work is expected to cost $100,000, Elliott noted, $65,000 of which is to be contributed by the Ontario Heritage Foundation.

According to the story, the province of Ontario has given the house a heritage designation based on its historical and architectural merits.

Jim Dodd, a Lawrence Realtor and a grandson of Naismith, said his grandfather's uncle, John Young, must have owned the Almonte home.

NAISMITH'S parents died when he was only 9, and the uncle raised him, Dodd said.

Dodd said he once personally tried, without success, to find the rural home.

According to a news clip in the Journal-World library, Naismith's father was from Glasgow, Scotland, and his mother was a native of Almonte. When they both died of scarlet fever, the uncle, identified in the clip as Peter J. Young, a brother of Mrs. Naismith, took their son to raise.

After Naismith graduated from Almonte High School, he entered McGill University in Montreal where he studied for the ministry, the article said. He graduated in 1890 from Presbyterian College and then went to Springfield, Mass., to pursue a degree in physical education at the YMCA College.

It was there that he was hired to teach, and in the course of that work, he invented the game of basketball. It was the winter of 1891-92.

NAISMITH was associated with KU for about 40 years and he died in Lawrence on Nov. 28, 1939.

Ryther recalled how the late Lawrence photographer Duke D'Ambra once accompanied Naismith to Almonte, "where a school was to be dedicated and named in Naismith's honor."

D'Ambra, he noted, related a story of that trip:

"In crossing a small park adjoining the school, they saw several youngsters dressed in band uniforms," Ryther related. "Naismith, always interested in young people, stopped, visited with them, and asked why they were all dressed up, to which one of they replied, `Aw, we're supposed to play for some old codger that's supposed to have invented basketball.'

"To which Naismith replied, `Well, I'm that old codger, let's go on in and get it over with.'"

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