St. Stephen Aims to Highlight Oldest Surviving Basketball Court

The alleged oldest surviving basketball court in the world is located at the former YMCA building in St. Stephen, shown on the left in this photograph. (Photo courtesy of St. Croix Historical Society)

By Lura Jackson

 

A group of passionate basketball fans in St. Stephen are in the process of preserving what is believed to be the oldest surviving basketball court in the world. The court is in the former YMCA building downtown where it lay hidden until a fire in 2010 exposed it and its storied past. Now, Canada 1st Basketball is aiming to turn the court into a basketball museum celebrating the area’s history.

For sports history fans, the St. Stephen court is truly noteworthy. Basketball was originally developed by Canadian James Naismith while he was at a Massachusetts YMCA in 1891. Within a few years, it had spread to the Maritimes – with Canada 1st Basketball spokesperson Pete Corby asserting that the first game in the province was played in St. Stephen in 1893 on the court that remains today. That same year would have seen the first international game of basketball in the world played between Calais and St. Stephen youth, Corby said – a game played in what is now the oldest surviving YMCA building in Canada.

The unique nature of the court and the building have provided more than enough inspiration for Canada 1st Basketball to proceed with its plan of acquiring the building at 4-8 King Street. Not only is the location well suited for a museum, but may even be well-suited to become the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame. “Walking on the original floor of this historic YMCA in St. Stephen, it is impossible to ignore the sense of history you get just by being in a room relatively untouched in over 125 years,” Corby shared.

For the past six years, Canada 1st has been working with the building’s current owners, the St. Croix Vocational Centre [SCVC], to acquire the building. The vocational center, which runs a thrift store from the building, is fully on board as it has been in the process of seeking to expand its store in a new location.

Canada 1st hired a consulting company and a fundraising manager to raise the funds for the purchase and negotiated a two-year agreement with the SCVC. “The sale will be a win-win solution to both associations, and Canada 1st Basketball is prepared to accept the challenge of creating a significant legacy to the history of basketball, not only in Canada but in North America and the world,” Corby provided.

 

An event commemorating the 125th anniversary of the first basketball game played in St. Stephen was held in October on the courts.