The Wilkinson gym started to fall out of use when the school consolidated with nearby Charlottesville High School in 1965. The building was sold in the 1970s to a local family seeking a larger space for its hardware store. For a time the family also used an adjacent classroom building — which has since been demolished — as a restaurant serving homey classics like beef Manhattan and pork, beans and potatoes.
“People would come in and say, ‘Huh, this is the old basketball floor, isn’t it?’” said Terry Molden, 79, who owned the store with his family. “And I would say, ‘Yeah, and you’re out of bounds.’ ”
Two decades ago, the Molden family sold the gym to Jeff and Christy Broady, a local couple, who lived in the gym while gradually constructing the home, piece by piece, all around them. The price back then was $85,000, according to 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 few local children followed the Petrys’ kids off the school bus and into their home to play. The next day, there were a few more. The number kept trickling upward, until one day there were almost 20 children shooting hoops and riding bicycles around the court.
“I was like, ‘Do your parents know that you’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 think you should have these.” The Petrys were also given a dust stack of yearbooks from the 1950s.