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  • Writer's pictureMarc Viquez

The Hatchet House – Washington High School Hatchets

Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29

The Hatchet House 608 E Walnut St Washington, IN 47501

Year Opened: 1966

Capacity: 7,090


The Hatchet House is a Truly Special

In a state that is known for its high school basketball fieldhouses, it may be hard to stand out among the mammoth-size facilities that dot the state from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan. However, in the small town of Washington, Indiana, in the southern part of the state, there is an impressive basketball arena named simply the Hatchet House.

The 7,090-seat arena was dedicated on November 23, 1966, and replaced the original Hatchet House that was built in 1925. The arched roof building with its wooden bleacher seats, corner views, retired jerseys, and seven state championship banners is something special to walk into for the first time and when it’s near capacity, the acoustics are a perfect soundtrack to Hoosier Hysteria.

The Washington High School basketball program began to play in 1906 and was known as the “Old Gold and Black” until it adopted the name “Undertakers” after star player James (Bud) Gill’s father loaned the team his business’s hearse to travel to games. The name was not popular with some of the town’s populace and a local newspaper columnist for the Washington Democrat, Harold Brouillette, opted to change the name to “Hatchets” after mentioning the team cutting through the opposition just like George Washington’s “hatchet” cut through the cherry tree.

When the basketball team opened its new home in 1925, they took the court as the Hatchets and the name has become synonymous with Washington basketball ever since. The program has captured 46 sectional championships, 20 regionals, 6 semi-state, and 7 state championships in school history. It has also produced four, tied for most in the state, Indiana Mr. Basketball players including the Zeller brothers: Luke, Tyler, and Cody.

Food & Beverage 4

The arena offers various points of sale concession stands from top to bottom. There are small concession stands on the upper concourse of the interior seating bowl and larger tables on the exterior concourse that wraps around the building. The usual products can be found here, but there are a few varieties that make for a nice change of pace at The Hatchet House during a basketball contest.

There is freshly made ice cream by local institution Scoops, Polish sausages, freshly popped popcorn in specially designed Hatchet bags, soft pretzels, mucho nachos with all the toppings, and coneys with chili on top. However, if you enjoy a box of candy, nachos with cheese sauce, and a regular hot dog with mustard, you have that as well.

Atmosphere 5

The nanosecond you walk into the building you feel the aura of various championship teams that have played on the court since its inception, the echoing of the crowds, and the smell of the thick wooden bleachers mixed in with the odor of old popcorn, flat soda, and stale hot dog buns. The Hatchet House is as advertised, a perfect example of a Hoosier Temple.

The crowds are at near capacity for regional and sectional games, fans travel throughout the state to pack the gym to near capacity levels. The sound of the thundering fans from their seats, the chants from the student section dressed in unison, and the energy from the cheerleaders who hover over the railings of the gym create an ambiance that is found at other gymnasiums but is woven together perfectly for basketball games.

This might be because the facility was built to be a basketball arena first and its appearance favors the Hinkle Fieldhouse in many ways. The seating is broken up into two sections that provide great sight lines from various points in the building, even when you are underneath the golden banners that at times swing back and forth from the movement of fans seated below. The upper-level seats behind each basketball hoop act as a porch that puts fans up close and personal with the players on the court.

The arena features an electronic scoreboard above the center court that has old-school digital imaging of players and school logos. Although not at tournament games, the school’s mascot “Hatch” is a high-end mascot that entertains fans at regular home games. The wide-eyed hatchet is very impressive at the high school level.

Neighborhood 3

The town of Washington, Indiana has a population of a little over 11,000 and is located two hours south of Indianapolis and 45 minutes north of Evansville. The downtown features a few places to visit including the Indiana Theater, built in 1928. It offers balcony seating and ticket prices of $5 and $6 each for first-run movies. The White Steamer has been in business since 1937, offering breakfast and hamburgers from 5 AM to 4 PM.

Another favorite among the populace includes Mason’s Root Beer Stand serving root beer in frosty mugs, coney dogs, onion rings, and skyscrapers, a four-patty hamburger. It's a busy location creating homemade ice cream in copious flavors; long lines form during the warmer months of the year.

Fans 4

A collection of family members, alumni, town citizens, and students all get a case of Hoosier Hysteria during hole-in-the-wall local restaurants in February and March. Their sounds echo throughout the arch-shaped building and when working in unison, create a deafening harmony that ranks among some of the better venues in the state.

There was also a time when 5,000 would pack the Hatchet House for Washington High School basketball games a little over 10 years ago. Those crowds have diminished somewhat due to the play of the basketball team, but it is safe to say that when More local restaurants are the various Hatchets return to prominence you’ll see the larger crowds back.

Access 5

The Hatchet House is a very simple facility to get around for patrons and includes an outer concourse that brings fans to various entrances of the seating bowl. The exterior concourse features staircases that bring fans to the upper deck area offering another main concourse that wraps around the entire building. The concession stands and bathrooms are marked at both levels of the arena.

The only complaint is the limited amount of parking available for large tournament games. True, one does have to park on the street but it’s only a few short blocks away and there is always a spot to find on the street. Once again, reminding me of taking in Butler Bulldogs games at the Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Return on Investment 5

The Hatchet House is worth the trip and may depend on how far you want to travel to see a pristine facility. The price for regular season games is $5 and tournament games range in price between $8-$10. The concessions are plenty at all levels of the building and the arena feels more like a college basketball venue than a high school gym.

Extras 4

The arena gets a star for the multiple sale points of concession stands. From top-level corners to outer concourse stands, the volunteers at The Hatchet House have you covered with all your snack needs. There is even a group of students who walk around the top rows selling freshly baked cookies.

A second star for the vast amount of history on display in the building. There are 7 state championship banners for boys' basketball hanging from the rafters and 6 retired basketball jerseys. There are also numerous photos of past championship teams from both the boys' and girls' programs neatly displayed on the outer concourse walls.

A third star for the original Hatchet House that was erected in 1925 and is still in use next door to the arena as a middle school gymnasium. The first game that took place at the gym was against Martinsville High School featuring a young man named John Wooden.

A fourth point is for the acoustics in the building that provides much of its soundtrack. The arched roof creates a beautiful look to the place and provides a canvas for cheering fans and basketball players on the court.

Final Thoughts

The Hatchet House had been on my list for the last three years as a place to review for Stadium Journey. The arena feels more like a collegiate venue than a high school gym. The place is as advertised; a true classic in any state, any sport, or any decade. If you happen to be in the area during tournament time, the Hatchet House is worth a visit.

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