With the sweltering heat of the last few days, the swimming pool at Heise Park has been a very busy place — just as it has since it first opened almost 90 years ago.

On May 30, 1936, the city of Galion saw the culmination of years of effort and community spirit with the official opening of its new municipal swimming pool and bathhouse. The pool and filtering plant were opened to the public for inspection on Sunday until 1:00 PM, after which it was opened for bathing.

The pool and bathhouse project was a significant investment for the city, costing approximately $27,000. The Federal government contributed around $15,000 for labor and materials through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program, while the city issued a bond for additional materials. Over the years, the park board had raised a bit over $1600 through various civic organizations dedicated to the cause of building a swimming pool at Heise Park.

The Works Progress Administration, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, was a cornerstone of the New Deal’s response to the Great Depression. This massive public works program aimed to provide employment for millions of jobless Americans while simultaneously improving the nation’s infrastructure. Over its eight-year lifespan, the WPA employed 8.5 million people, constructing or enhancing thousands of roads, buildings, bridges, parks, and airports across the country.

The WPA left an indelible mark on American society, not only by providing much-needed employment during a time of economic crisis but also by contributing to the nation’s physical and cultural development. The program’s legacy can still be seen today in the infrastructure and artistic works it produced — including the pool at Heise Park — serving as a reminder of one of the most ambitious public works initiatives in U.S. history.

Construction of the pool began on April 5, 1935, and by August it was sufficiently complete to welcome the public. The bathhouse was finalized the following year. This 25’ x 50’ structure was built with modern concrete blocks, cement stucco, and a white waterproof finish, featuring decorative concrete with wrought iron details. Concrete urns adorned the top, enhancing its visual appeal.

Newspaper accounts of the day shared that the central section of the bathhouse was allocated for basket-checking, capable of holding around 350 baskets. The adjacent ladies’ and men’s dressing rooms each housed 11 individual dressing areas, along with toilets and showers. The interior boasted a color scheme of dark green and orange, complemented by white and sea green waterproof finishes on the walls.

The main pool, measuring 60’ x 120’, held about 270,000 gallons of water. At the west end, a 30-foot diameter circular wading pool featured a central fountain. The pool floor sloped gradually from the west end, with depths ranging from 2 ½ feet to 9 ½ feet at the east end. It was equipped with two professional-grade one meter diving boards and one three meter diving board. For evening swims, six 1000-watt floodlights illuminated the pool.

James Gill was appointed to oversee the pool’s operations, with Richard Beam serving as the official lifeguard. The pool’s construction was designed and engineered by W. C. Harbarger of Orrville, while E. J. Boyer of Galion served as the general superintendent. The Galion Service Department, under the direction of L. A. Cline, played a significant role in the project, contributing substantial work towards its completion.

The opening of Galion’s new municipal pool and bathhouse on May 30, 1936, was a day of celebration and community pride. It marked not only the realization of a dream but also a significant step forward in the development of Heise Park into a cherished community space. In August, before the pool officially opened, Pathe News was in Galion to take video of the swimming pool, highlighting its importance and the excitement it generated.

Each Saturday, we post about local history. We call this series “Galion History Corner,” and we will be sharing not only stories about our shared heritage but also updates on history news here in southeast Crawford County.

This series is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Bernard M. Mansfield, whose “Your Historical Galion” was a fixture in weekend editions of the Galion Inquirer. Dr. Mansfield was a friend and family physician, and he inspired the current generation of Galion historians to continue his work.

Sources: Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum; Galion Inquirer; Wikipedia — Image by Kris from Pixabay