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Old Municipal Bathing Beach

 

Old Watertown Swimming Pool

Opened on June 14, 1942

New Watertown Aquatic Center

 

1866      OLD SWIMMING HOLE CALLED LAKE OSCALO

    

The old swimming hole called Lake Oscalo.  Back in 1866, when the old brick yard was digging clay to make bricks, the pit filled up with sparkling spring water from the many springs.  This water furnished a wonderful swimming hole for many old timers who will remember the happy days at the old clay quarry in the seventh ward.  In 1936 Mr. and Mrs. Oscar E. Carlson purchased the brick yard property and made this portion of their land a beauty spot for many of their friends who enjoy swimming, fishing, and picnicking.  Lake Oscalo was named after Oscar and Loda Carlson and was registered with the State Conservation Dept under that name.   Today Lake Victoria.

 

c.1890

 

OLD SWIMMING HOLE, near south end of Tivoli Island, Oconomowoc Ave bridge in distance

 

c.1895

        Skinning dipping at the dam

 

1914

05 21       BATHHOUSE PROPOSED

The matter of a public bath house to be erected at or near Riverside Park was discussed, but no action was taken on this matter pending possible action by the park board, who has the matter in hand and are trying to make the erection of the bathhouse possible during the present summer.    WG

 

1915

10 07       PUBLIC BATH HOUSE CONTEMPLATED.  More Land Purchased For Park Purposes.

The Park Board has secured additional land for park purposes, buying of John Schlueter one half acre of land just across the river from Riverside park, on which the Park Board contemplate erecting a public bath house and otherwise improving it.  The price paid was $450.  This is a commendable move on the part of the Park Board, and the city council no doubt will and should endorse their action.    WG

 

1920’s   MUNICIPAL BATHING BEACH

 

    

Boughton St. municipal swimming beach, prior to construction of pool

 

DISTANT VIEW, from Riverside Park

  

 

1920’s, late

For about 10 years, starting back in the late 1910s there was a lot of agitation for a swimming pool to replace the Boughton Street beach. 

 

The old swimming hole on Rock River right at the Division/Boughton Street bridge, just a few blocks from the current pool setting.  Back then, the community became more and more concerned about swimming in the Rock River and decided a much safer environment was needed.  That's when the push started for a pool to be constructed through this federal program.  In addition to the dangers of swimming in the river, just about when summer peaked the slow and nonexistent flow of water caused the state health department ordered the "beach" closed.

 

1938

In 1938 a referendum was presented to the voters for a $15,000 bond issue to construct the pool as a WPA project.  It passed 1,563 to 1,063.  Later the common council voted to add $5,000 to the available money to make sure nothing necessary would be left out of the project for lack of money.

 

1940

Construction began in the winter of 1940 with the leveling of the hillside where the pool was to be constructed.  The pool was actually completed in the fall of 1941 but the bathhouse didn't get finished until June of the following year.  The pool did open for one week at the end of summer in 1941.  It was filled to check for leaks and city officials decided to let people use it for that one week despite not having a bathhouse.

 

1941

SWIMMING POOL CONSTRUCTED AT RIVERSIDE PARK

Pool completed in the fall of 1941; the bathhouse finished in June of 1942.

     

     click to enlarge

 

1942      OLD SWIMMING POOL RECALLED

06 14          The pool was officially opened on June 14, 1942, and by the time it was dedicated on July 5, as part of the annual Fourth of July celebration, nearly 5,000 people had used the pool.

 

The old pool was 75 feet wide and 165 feet long.  The shallow end had a depth of three feet and the deep end was 10 feet.  Back then and for many years, there was a 10 foot high diving board and also two boards several feet off the water level.  Diving off the high board was always exciting, but as time went on there were concerns for safety and the high dive was removed.  The 10 foot depth was only in a very small area and then it started rising quickly to the five foot level where it gradually sloped back to the three foot level on the north side of the pool.  The pool also had a small separate baby pool area which was just a few inches deep.

 

The bathhouse for the old pool was so impressive that much of it was saved when the new aquatic center was built.  The fieldstone which was used to build the old bathhouse was actually found on the site when excavation work was undertaken.  The building was 116 feet by 42 feet and is eight inches thick.

 

People using the pool would pay their admission fee and then would be given a large basket in which to put their clothes and a towel.  In the event more than 500 people were using the pool youngsters were encouraged to share a basket.  Often there were upwards of 1,000 people in the pool at a time, more than the rated capacity of 900.

 

The original pool and bathhouse were designed by then City Engineer Richard Podolske.  He took into account many factors to make this bathhouse the envy of many communities.  He worked hard to be sure it was clean, that there were no offensive odors and that damp and musty conditions were eliminated to minimize any chances of skin diseases being harbored there.

 

George Lehmann, a local building contractor, supervised the daily construction work while Podolske was the overall manager of the project.  Those who served on the pool committee during planning and construction were John H. Bublitz, Francis F. Darcey, Fred W. Pfeifer, Harry A. Beurhaus, George Fischer, E. F. Zimmermann, E. G. Hubb, R. J. Hoge, John D. Clifford, Walter Nurenberg, Fred Block, Amandus Krueger, and E. E. Brumm.

 

Admission prices that first year the pool was open were 5 cents for children ages 5 to 12, 11 cents for children ages 13 to 18 and 17 cents for adults.

 

Season passes were $2.20 for children ages 5 to 12, $3.30 for children ages 13 to 18 and $4.40 for adults.  Towel rentals were a nickel and soap for a before and/or after swim was one penny.

 

That first year the brand new swimming pool was staffed by six people.  Wallace Zimmermann was pool manager; Jack Zimmerman and Margaret Derleth were bathhouse attendants; and George Draeger, William Kuerschner and Ray Vogler were lifeguards.

 

The actual dedication program on July 5, 1942, was a big one.  It started at 3 o'clock and featured the Lake Shore Club of Chicago which put on quite a show.  A total of 14 girls and six boys performed in the program.

 

Speaking at the dedication were Mayor Walter Nack, E. G. Hubb, president of the board of park commissioners; city attorney H. W. Hartwig and Podolske.

WPA

It had to have been an incredible day for the citizens of Watertown. The country was in the midst of World War II and money was tight everywhere, but somehow, with the help of the WPA, the pool became a reality.  The WPA was a federal program that got unemployed and underemployed people back to work, making municipal projects come to fruition.

 

In addition to the pool, the WPA was responsible for all of the wonderful stone and cement terraces along the east side of the pool which were used as kind of bleachers, the similar terracing around the ball diamonds, the walls along the Rock River in Riverside Park and the small creek that winds its way along the river.

 

1940s, late

     

Click to enlarge

 

1950’s

  

 

MEMORIES REGARDING ABOVE POOL

 

I remember many summer days spent at the pool! I think it cost a dime to get in. Boy, I'm old!!

 

We were there almost every day from when it opened til it closed at 9pm.  Those were the days.

 

I practically lived there as a kid!! Good times, 1950s'!!

 

Great memories of summer days spent there!

 

Did spend a lot of time swimming there in the 60s.  It did cost a dime to get in but my mom gave us a quarter so we could get a bag of Pagels popcorn or chips, which were the best.

 

It was free during the week and a dime on Sundays most of my growing up years.  I had to earn that dime helping with some chore around the house.

 

I recall doing the hill on my bike.  What a trip till you hit the fence.

 

In the 70s we bought a season patch to sew on our suit.  The potato chips were the best.  And so intimidated by the high dive when young.  Didn't do lessons but was in water ballet one summer, 1977.

 

Power lines running across the pool.

 

Let’s talk about water ballet.

 

30 cents for kids if you didn't have the season pass.  Dove off the high dive all the time.  If it was cooler out we had to have 15 kids waiting in order for them to open.

 

How I loved that pool!

 

1958

06 06       With the 1958 swimming season at the Riverside Park pool due to begin this week, making it the 16th year of operation for the pool, everything was in readiness today for the opening at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.  The Riverside Park swimming pool, which someone has called the best recreational investment the people of Watertown ever made, was dedicated on July 5, 1942.  It was constructed during the years 1940 and 1941.  It grew out of a city referendum in which the voters of the city voiced their approval of the plan.  Actually, the pool had been completed in the fall of 1941 and during that winter and the following spring the bath house was constructed and the filtration equipment placed in the basement of the building.   WDT

 

1964

06 27       With sizzling temperatures prevailing, the swimming pool here set a new attendance record yesterday.  According to a report made this morning by E. E. Brumm, pool manager, there were 1,502 free swimmers, 108 who used their season tickets, another 694 who paid admissions and 312 who used the pool as part of their swimming lessons.  This represented a total of 2,616.   WDT

 

1966

10 12       Alderman Carl Seeber thinks it’s time the city fathers begin to think about the construction of a second swimming pool in Watertown — to be located on the west side.  He made his proposal at last night’s common council committee meeting.  He suggested that the council consider a plan to put aside a specific sum each year for a number of years to provide the funds for the project.  His suggestion was discussed only briefly, during which one alderman said he felt that if the plan is adopted, thought ought also to be given to making it an indoor pool so it can be used the year around and not only during the few summer months the present facility is operated.   WDT

 

1989

10 23       The Watertown Municipal Outdoor Pool has served the community well for almost half a century, but recreation officials say it’s time to look at renovating the 47-year-old structure.  “We’re not looking for something that has to be done tomorrow,” said John Steber, director of the park, recreation and forestry department.  “(But) we’ve got to start looking at the future and where we’re going with this.”  Toward that end, Steber has included a request of $4,800 for a pool study in the 1990 outdoor pool budget.  If authorized by the Watertown Common Council, the study would include an investigation of the pool structure and mechanical systems, an evaluation of projected use, a drawing of proposed changes and budget estimates of renovations.   WDT

 

1990

06 09       A $4,500 study of the outdoor swimming pool is being recommended by the Watertown Park and Recreation Commission.  The recommendation calls for the Stevens Point firm of Gremmer and Bablitch Architects and Engineers to offer three alternatives for remodeling and renovating the existing pool to bring it up to current state standards and to replace old and antiquated equipment.  The three alternatives range from the most economical yet functional pool facility, to a mid-range family aquatic facility to a complete family aquatic center.  John Steber said the existing pool was built in 1941 and for the most part it continues to operate with all of the original equipment.  He said, “We are in violation of numerous state laws, including the lack of water depth, we are unable to recycle water, we don’t have a recycling tank for recycling and our filter system is ancient.  Any of this equipment could stop operating at any time.”   WDT

 

12 05       City aldermen will review a proposed outdoor pool project with an estimated construction cost of about $1.7 million.  Final plans for constructing a significantly new water facility were presented to the city’s park, recreation and forestry commission Monday by consultant Gremmer-Bablitch Architects and Engineers of Stevens Point.  The firm is scheduled to provide another presentation at the council meeting on Dec. 18. Park and recreation Director John Steber said the commission believes construction of a new facility makes more sense than renovating the old outdoor pool, which was built in 1941.   WDT

 

Watertown Aquatic Center

1991

02 13       The city’s outdoor pool will not open this summer unless the facility can meet state health and safety codes, according to a recommendation from the Watertown Park, Recreation and Forestry Commission.  Also, the commission recommended that the common council proceed immediately with the construction of the $1.7 million facility plan prepared by Gremmer-Bablitch Architects Engineers.  “We feel it’s in the best interests of the city and its citizens that we build a new pool,” said Jerome Kruse, commission chairman.  WDT

 

03 04       Construction on a new outdoor aquatic center would begin in 1992 if the Watertown Common Council approves a resolution Tuesday to authorize the $1.7 million project.  The council will meet at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of the Watertown Municipal Building.  Aldermen will consider two resolutions concerning the city’s outdoor swimming pool, including a measure that would commit the city to pay $1.2 million of the pool’s construction costs.  The other $500,000 would be raised through a public fund-raising drive.   WDT

 

03 21       Watertown residents can begin to raise funds for the construction of a new outdoor aquatics center following the Watertown Common Council’s authorization of the project on Tuesday.  The council agreed to commit up to $900,000 in general tax funds to the construction of the facility, depending upon the level of support from citizens, who would need to contribute a minimum of $500,000.  The resolution states that $1.50 in city funds will be contributed for each $1 raised through private sector donations.  The ration is intended to encourage contributions to the $1.7 million project, which includes construction of a zero-depth pool basin, concession area, volleyball courts and a water slide.  The mechanical and filtration system will be replaced in the project and the bathhouse will be remodeled.   WDT

 

06 20       A nonprofit community foundation is being established by a group of Watertown supporters, and its first project will be to raise the $600,000 needed for the private sector’s share of the proposed outdoor aquatic facility.  The foundation will be known as Watertown Area Community Foundation, and plans call for it to be a long-term organization dedicated to providing financial assistance for public projects which otherwise might not be feasible.   WDT

 

08 31       NEW FAMILY AQUATIC CENTER, ARCHITECTURAL PLANS

Work on detailed architectural plans for Watertown’s new family aquatic center should begin by early October for the most competitive bidding process, according to Timothy A. Gremmer, president of Gremmer, Ohm, Plover, architects for the project.  Gremmer was in Watertown this week to prepare topographic maps of the existing pool location to begin preliminary planning for the project.  The Watertown Area Community Foundation has been established to raise $600,000 in private funds.  The Watertown Common Council has voted to spend up to $900,000 if the $600,000 goal is reached.   WDT

 

09 22       AQUATIC CENTER FUNDING NEAR HALFWAY POINT

The fund drive to raise $600,000 in private funds for a new aquatic center in Watertown is near the halfway point, members of the board of directors and advisory board of the Watertown Area Community Foundation were told Thursday afternoon. The total amount of money contributed in cash and/or pledged now stands at $286,500, according to H. Bruce Kasten, foundation treasurer. Members of the foundation board were also told that a number of contacts have been made and additional pledges should be committed in the coming weeks.   WDT

 

1992

01 24       COMMIT TO CONSTRUCTION OF OUTDOOR FAMILY AQUATIC CENTER

The Watertown Common Council Tuesday voted unanimously to commit the city to a maximum of $1.1 million for the construction of the outdoor family aquatic center. The council’s action will allow recreation officials to proceed with plans to build the facility this year for a June 1993 opening. Bids for the construction of the pool will be sought in the near future. The council’s commitment also will help the Watertown Area Community Foundation secure several more donations to the private fund-raising effort, which is closing in on its goal of $600,000. Foundation officials say several large contributors will release their donations only after the council commits to the project.   WDT

 

04 01       BIDS FOR OUTDOOR FAMILY AQUATIC CENTER

The Watertown Common Council Monday accepted four base bids and several alternates for the construction of the new family aquatic center.  The four bids, which total $1,259,818, include most of the work to build the facility.  Construction on the pool is expected to start this spring to allow a 1993 opening.  “It’s gratifying to note that the bids came in lower than expected,” said Mayor David Lenz, who added that the city will be able to accomplish more of the project by using the savings.  The council authorized acceptance of a base bid of $749,625 for the general pool construction from Neumann Pools Inc. of Beaver Dam.  The firm also will build a vinyl-coated fence around the pool for $5,978 and a concrete strip underneath the fence for $5,813.   WDT

 

04 28       FUND-RAISING GOAL EXCEEDED

The Watertown Area Community Foundation has exceeded its $600,000 fund-raising goal, supporters of the new aquatic center were told Wednesday evening.  A celebration to mark that accomplishment, held at Balistreri’s Welcome Inn, was attended by about 75 members of the foundation board, advisory board, government officials and others who helped make the fund drive a success.  The total collected and/or pledged thus far is $646,123.36, Bruce Kasten, foundation treasurer, told the group.  The revealing of that total on a large board was met with an enthusiastic round of applause by those attending. James Clifford, president of the foundation, told the group that the total is expected to go even higher in the coming weeks as more commitments in process are made.   WDT

 

1993

06 09       NEW AQUATIC CENTER OPEN HOUSE

The cold and rainy weather didn’t deter a crowd of several hundred from getting their first view of Watertown’s new family aquatic center Friday evening.  The open house included a short dedication program in which various speakers emphasized the positive spirit of the community that made the center a reality. Members of the community raised $600,000 as the private sector’s share of the $1.7 million project, an effort that has set a standard for other communities to seek.  And those attending were pleased by the final results.  Many praised the project as a great benefit to the community.  Others commented that it was one of the best aquatic center they have seen, comparing it favorably with others in the area.   WDT

 

2007

(2007) The family-oriented facility offers a 220-foot water slide, a 24-foot drop slide, a one-meter springboard, two animal water slides for preschoolers, a mushroom waterfall, several floor fountains and a large zero depth area. In addition, the facility also features a playground area, a sand volleyball court, a concession stand, spacious deck space, a large grass area and ample parking. Coin-operated lockers and a large bathhouse are also available.

 

This wonderful addition to the city's park and recreation programs, has received a tremendous amount of use since it was built to replace the aging municipal pool at the same location.

 

With the water slides, the zero depth pool and the many other amenities, this center is a far cry from the pool it replaced.  Many take this spectacular aquatic center for granted, but it came about through a major fund-raising effort and a cooperative financial deal with the city.  The private sector raised $600,000 and city government added $1.2 million for the $1.8 million total cost.

 

2017

05 16       PREPPING THE POOL INCLUDES POWER WASHING

  

 

 

Cross References:

Riverside Park

Derived in part from Watertown Daily Times article, 06 02 2007

 

Spent so many happy hours at this pool! Remember diving for greased watermelons at end of summer!

 

Before they built the large one, this was the place to be for sledding. Never missed it

 

Dr. E. J. Hoermann was a member of the board of park commission.  The park development program was one of the things closest to his heart and up to the time he took ill was a leader in the movement for a swimming pool here.

 

 

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