In the early 1920s, it was decided that the Academy needed a proper gymnasium for the athletic activities of the girls. The two-storey wooden building was designed by Sister Osithe, a teacher, artist and architect who lived at the Convent. Although the gym was central to the memories of many girls, its completion in 1922 was met with little fanfare. The construction bill, listing a Statement of Cost totalling $3299.05 and Morry and Chamberlain as the contractors, is one of the few records from the project.
The gym was situated behind the auditorium, in the playground area in back of the school. The upper floor was the gymnasium itself. Inside, the girls exercised, did gymnastics, and played volleyball, basketball and other games. The building's facilities suited the needs of the girls, and former student Catherine Graves (Manthorpe) has many memories of trying her best at the sports played in the gym. However, she remembers, "I don't think anything was regulation size." She adds, with a laugh, "The only time I can ever remember making a basket in my life was when I was playing volleyball!"
C. Graves noted that "That building got a lot of use, one way or another." That attitude of adaptability was important for a school that was attempting to meet the needs of so many individual pupils, of varying ages. The older girls were interested in having dances, and these formal occasions were organized with St. Louis College, the boy's school in the city, run by the Christian Brothers of Ireland. Dancing was taught as part of the physical education programme by some teachers. During the late 1960s and early 70s, Terrasita Calica, a gym teacher from the Philippines, taught Filipino and Spanish dances. A group of 10 girls performed these ethnic dances, and competed in the city Folk Festival, winning First Prize.
A number of students had bicycles, and there were some available for students to borrow. They were stored in an area under the gym, and many sunny weekend afternoons were spent fixing and polishing these bikes in the playground below the gym, so they could be taken for rides. Some students earned the trust of the Sisters, and would be given the key to the gym on Saturdays, to play badminton and take out the bicycles. The St. Louis boys were often invited for these afternoons (although the boys were chased away at other times, when they shouldn't have been on the grounds!)
A kitchen was located on the ground floor of the gym building, where the elementary school students were expected to eat their lunches in silence. Meals were formal, sombre occasions with the exception of hot dog days, held as a treat once or twice a month, when mothers would come to help the Sisters prepare lunch. The kitchen used gas stoves for cooking, and the fumes would often rise up to the gym, making the Physical Education classes held during the period before lunch warm and stuffy.
In 1958, The St. Ann's Centennial Annex was added to a small 1929 building across the street behind the Academy. This new building served the High School students; this structure became Victoria's Conservatory of Music after the Academy closed in 1973. The gym was one of the buildings, including the chapel and the auditorium, used by all the pupils, from kindergarten to graduation. The older girls would cross the street, known as Academy Close, with their gym strip of white shorts and shirts.
The gymnasium is no longer standing; this building was torn down before the restoration project began at St. Ann's. One of the only photographs of this part of St. Ann's Academy came from an appraisal of the Academy, for insurance purposes, in the 1940s.
The recreation time for the girls, especially for the boarding students, was usually short and tightly scheduled. At recess, the younger students from the primary school were free to run around the playground area, making up games and having fun. This area was mostly dirt and grass, and many rounds of dodgeball and volleyball were set up. A few fruit trees off to the side tempted the girls with shiny plums and pears in the warm season, and berries grew off to the side.
This play area extended around the corner of the auditorium building, into a section of the grounds which has now been designated for parking. The grounds were divided into sectors, many of which the younger children were forbidden to enter, so this playground, surrounded by the Academy's outbuildings, became their domain, until they were called to line up at the door by the auditorium, ready to begin classes. Now that the gymnasium has been torn down and the old schoolhouse has been moved to the Royal British Columbia Museum grounds, this space has become an open, grassy area, with benches for the office employees to enjoy their breaks, sitting in the sunshine.