Albion Historical Notebook

VICTORY PARK SWIMMING POOL NEVER BUILT

VICTORY PARK SWIMMING POOL NEVER BUILT

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Albionites have lacked an officially-sanctioned natural swimming hole in which to cool off during the hot summer months. The youth of our community have either had to pay money to use a chlorinated pool, or swim clandestinely by the Victory Park waterfall as has often been the case, or find transportation to Swain’s Lake.

Albionites have lacked an officially-sanctioned natural swimming hole in which to cool off during the hot summer months. The youth of our community have either had to pay money to use a chlorinated pool, or swim clandestinely by the Victory Park waterfall as has often been the case, or find transportation to Swain’s Lake. Growing up in Albion, I remember having to pay to use the pool behind the Parker Inn Hotel to go swimming in the summer.

This is unlike Albion’s early years, when the Kalamazoo River provided a welcome relief to the summer’s heat. “Dutchtown,” located along S. Hannah St. just south of the Albion College athletic field, was the official community swimming place for many years, complete with bathhouse. Unfortunately, it was closed in 1957 and the river level along the old Peabody/Gothic millrace along Wilson Drive and Linden Avenue was subsequently lowered. Since that time Albion hasn’t had its own official outdoor swimming place. Today you can still see the decaying remains of the Dutchtown swimming area along S. Hannah St.

Swimming beaches at both Montcalm and Spectacle Lakes a mile west of town were closed in the early 20th century, as well as Dudek’s along the Kalamazoo River toward Concord in the 1970s. A proposed swimming area in Barnes Park on Water St. was never developed, as there were electric power lines overhead at that location during the 1960s. The attempt to create a swimming pond at Rieger Park several years ago now didn’t work out because the pond filled up with weeds, and the cold water became stagnant and scummy.

During the Great Depression, Albion Mayor Norman H. Wiener had a knack for securing government funds in the era of the National Recovery Act and the Works Progress Administration. Our City Hall was built under Wiener’s leadership, as well as the stone retaining wall that lines the Kalamazoo River today. Our band shell in Victory Park, and the 1940-laid brick Superior St. are two more examples of secured funding that resulted in local improvements.

One idea that was on the drawing board in the 1930s but did not see fruition was a community swimming pool to be located in Victory Park. In 1937, the Albion City Council approved the pool idea, and City Engineer Hugo A. Rieger drew up the blueprint for the project.

Dated April 3, 1937, the design featured a stone edifice containing an entrance for the girls on the left, and the boys on the right. In the front center was a stone drinking fountain. Above that were the signs that stated, “Victory Park Swimming Pool, 1937.” In the back was proposed a tall chain-link fence, approximately 105 feet long according to the scale with the pool inside. It was to have been located about where the playground is today behind the band shell.

Unfortunately, Mayor Wiener was unable to secure funding for that project, and the structure was never built. The blueprint for the structure has survived however, and so from our Historical Notebook this week we present the drawing of the proposed Victory Park swimming pool. How many of our readers have ever swum in the Kalamazoo River in Albion?

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