The dedication ceremony resembled a Busby Berkeley musical.
Nearly two dozen girls wearing one-piece swimsuits and bathing caps marched to the edge of the emerald green pool and dived into the shimmering water while an orchestra performed an energetic number.
An overflow audience enjoyed the aquacade as the girls splashed through a stunt program of swimming and diving to celebrate the opening of the pool at the Young Women’s Christian Association in downtown Akron.
The dedication of the 10-story YWCA building at Bowery and High streets was a community event in January 1931. Police officers and firefighters helped marshal the teeming crowds as thousands of people attended open houses at the new landmark.
The Clemmer-Noah Construction Co. erected the $857,000 building (about $13 million today) after breaking ground Feb. 1, 1930, on the former site of an old quarry. Akron architects Fichter & Brooker drew up blueprints for a rectangular, steel structure faced with gray stone, gray brick and terra cotta.
Presiding over the dedication on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 1931, were the Rev. Wilbur V. Mallalieu of First Methodist Episcopal Church, the Rev. Richard A. Dowed of Annunciation Catholic Church and Rabbi David Alexander of Temple Israel.
“We, the city of Akron, have together builded an house to the glory of God, to the fellowship of young women, and to the enrichment of common life,” Dowed told the audience. “Let us dedicate it with a joyous consecration to the fellowship of beauty and truth and rightness in living.”
Crowds swarmed through the bronze doors on South High Street to tour every level of the building. The first floor featured a lobby, auditorium and cafeteria; the second floor offered business offices and a public lounge; the third floor had classrooms and a recital hall; the fourth floor had a swimming pool; the fifth floor had a gymnasium and club rooms; the sixth floor had the International Institute and Girl Reserves offices.
The seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th floors featured penthouses with 126 rooms for full-time residents or transient guests.
The 70,000-gallon swimming pool was a modern marvel. While most indoor pools of the era were on lower levels, the Hasbrouck Co. of New York built the Akron YWCA’s pool with welded steel plates on the fourth floor. The water weighed 270 tons, so those welds had to be tight to avoid giving third-floor visitors a shower.
Measuring 25 feet by 60 feet, the green-tile pool was 3½ feet deep at the shallow end and 9 feet on the deep end.
“Aluminum ceiling catches the reflection of the water casting a shimmering pale green light over the pool which is lined by a gleaming wainscoting of tan tile trimmed in pastel shades and has a golden pheasant nonslipping runway,” Akron Times-Press reporter Alice Edison noted.
The water was changed three times a day via a recirculation system. It was pumped into a reservoir, filtered and heated. A Marsh Electro Chlorinator (“the latest in the science of swimming pool sterilization”) cleaned the water with a “stabilized neutral solution of sodium hypochlorite.”
The pool area offered more than 100 dressing stalls, locker rooms and 25 marble showers. Swimsuits, towels and soap were furnished.
“Great ingenuity has been displayed in the arrangement of the locker rooms where bathers using the pools must pass thru a shallow foot pool before going in or coming out,” Edison wrote. “Bathers enter the rooms via ‘dry aisles’ and return from the pool in ‘wet aisles.’ ”
A night after the YWCA building opened, the pool was formally unveiled Wednesday, Jan. 28, 1931, with an open house from 7 to 10 p.m.
The Cleveland YWCA Swimmers Club, under the direction of Leona Webster, brought 20 girls for a festive program of swimming, diving and frolicking. Ohio State student Rose Boczek, a former state high-diving champion, led the group.
“At one corner of the natatorium, the Paramount orchestra, directed by Joseph Tersini, played a sprightly air while the Cleveland girls marched out with military precision to the edge of the pool and plunged into the water in unison,” the Beacon Journal reported.
The Red Cross Women’s Corps, led by Mildred Christian and Marjorie Wright, provided lifesaving demonstrations. One swimmer showed spectators how to lift a drowning girl out of the pool and resuscitate her with artificial respiration.
“Another interesting feature of the lifesaving work was by Miss Marie O’Brien of the Red Cross Corps, who demonstrated how to disrobe under water, as in the case of a canoe accident,” the Beacon Journal reported.
Following the program, informal swimming was allowed in Akron’s new pool.
The Akron YWCA taught swimming classes at three levels. Beginners learned floating, backstroke, elementary crawl and emergency diving. Intermediate swimmers learned the side stroke, single and double overarm strokes and advanced emergency diving. Advance swimmers learned the front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke, underwater treading, surface diving and novelty swimming.
There were a few prerequisites, however.
“All girls and women wishing to use the pool must necessarily have a medical examination by the YWCA physician,” announced Laura H. Emde, health education director. “All girls and women entering activities in the YWCA ... must be either members or registered with the association.”
Health may not have been the only factor. YWCA club activities were segregated by race in the 1930s. The Akron YWCA didn’t formally allow whites and blacks to swim together until the pool was officially integrated in the late 1940s.
The Akron YWCA opened two months before the 15-story YMCA opened at Center and Bowery streets. Generations of children learned to swim at the two buildings, including many young boys at the YWCA.
After six decades of splashing, the Akron YWCA building was sold to private developer Anthony Rodriguez in 1985. The city took over operation of the gym and pool in 1996 and converted it into the CitiCenter Athletic Club, which boasted 700 members at its peak.
Last summer, the club had to vacate the building to make room for a new owner.
Cleveland developer Weston Inc. bought the building for $2.8 million and plans to add 60 apartments and lease the lower floors to the city. Weston hasn’t announced whether it will keep the pool, but it seems unlikely since it would be costly to maintain a pool for only a few dozen residents.
Workers drained the pool in August.
No more water, no more swimming, no more memories.
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or email@example.com.