Francis Gymnasium was finished in 1903 by the Olympics Games Committee and was one of the buildings used in the 3rd modern Olympic Games, the first Olympics held in the Western Hemisphere. After the Games, the committee turned this three-story, multi-level building over to Washington University to be used as part of the Athletics Department.
Francis Gymnasium and Francis Field, both used as venues during the 1904 Olympics, are named for David Rowland Francis, an 1870 graduate of Washington University, governor of Missouri, president of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company, U.S. ambassador to Russia, and president of Merchants Exchange. Francis planned a career in law, but upon returning home to discuss his $450 college debt, he learned of an opening in the family grain business. After more schooling, and years of hard work, he eventually became a partner, and then president.