Taking a Dip!

by Gwen Hinz Sargeant

Swimming is a favorite Appleton pastime, whether in the Fox River, a lagoon, private pools, or a municipal pool. In the early days, the only option was to swim in the Fox River, but the dangers associated with that pushed citizens to look for other options. 

One such option was a privately-owned pool built in the summer of 1913 in the river at the foot of Eldorado Street. This pool was built by Melvin Lewis. It was a cage, 20×24 feet, with a uniform depth of 3 ½ feet. The pool charged adults $3 and children $2 for the season. In 1916, the municipal pool operated next to the Water Street filtration plant below Prospect Avenue on Water Street. It was known as the Waterworks Pool. Boys and girls had separate swim times each week.   

In the late 1930s, Appleton Common Council started to consider new locations to replace the waterworks pool. The Common Council even went so far as to approve the location of the new municipal pool at Jones Park, only to be vetoed by Mayor Goodland. Discussion moved on to the Miller property located at Superior and Lawrence Street, which also failed. 

During this time, the city constructed several lagoons. In 1931, a cement swimming lagoon was built at Erb Park. The lagoon wading pool was an oval shape with water from 2 inches to 2 feet deep. It was the first of its kind erected by the street department. In 1932, Pierce Park had a swimming lagoon constructed. The low spots were filled with 70 truckloads of sand and water to create a swimming lagoon. The waterworks pool was torn down in July of 1940.

In October of 1940, Erb Park became the final site chosen for the new municipal pool. Mayor Goodland dug out the first ceremonial shovel of dirt to begin the construction of the new pool, which would be named Hunter Pool. Many fondly remember the Hunter Pool as the bird bath. The pool was circular with a center platform in the deepest area for diving. The swimming area around the platform was 9 feet deep. The pool was shaped like a large saucer. The center island had glass portholes which the lifeguards could look through into the deep area. The Hunter Pool Company of Indiana worked with Charles Green and Son Excavating Company of Appleton to install the new pool, which was ready for dedication by July of 1941. The dedication included a parade, the Fancy Diving Troop, a public inspection of the new pool, and a concert by the City Band.  

The Bird Bath, as it would forever be named, was eventually removed and a new pool installed in 1977 during the tenure of Mayor Sutherland. The new pool, funded by the federal jobs program, included a diving well, lap lanes, and a wading area for children. The pool was outdoor with the intention of making it indoor later and was designed with similar elements to the southside Mead Pool of 1961.

Erb Pool was never made indoor and was replaced by a new pool and waterslides in July of 2017. The Common Council was first presented with the idea of a splash pad, instead of a pool, but a group of concerned citizens worked to retain the pool. Mayor Hanna dedicated the new pool and waterslides on July 12, 2017. 

Appleton’s swimming pastime carries on today at Erb and Mead Pools each summer.