The Lincoln Park swimming pool and bathhouse, constructed in 1930, hold a cherished place in Albany's history, marked by their inclusion on both the New York State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places. This iconic structure, born during the challenging era of the Great Depression, emerged as a symbol of resilience, providing affordable sports, recreation, and entertainment to a neighborhood who has been historically disenfranchised.
Before the pool...
In the mid-1700s to 1800s, the site of the pool was home to a substantial brewery and brickyard. Unsurprisingly, Albany is built upon a network of concealed waterways, shaped over nearly four centuries of development. Before the city's existence, a stream, with numerous branches, traversed the land that eventually became Albany, ultimately flowing into the Hudson River.
The late 19th century witnessed the construction of the Beaver Creek sewer. As Albany expanded westward, the Beaver Creek stream was progressively repurposed for wastewater and gradually covered over, segment by segment. By 1884, maps identified sections along the creek suffering from sewage contamination. By 1940, the entire former creek had been transformed into an underground sewer, carrying both sewage and stormwater—a "combined" sewer. Maps from 1946 documented flooding issues along various branches of the sewer line.
Since then, Albany has grappled with this challenge. The Beaver Creek sewer line and its branches now encompass 5.2 square miles at the city's core. During dry weather, it efficiently manages its function. However, when substantial rainfall occurs, the system—remembering it handles both sewage and stormwater—struggles to cope with the increased water volume. Consequently, it overflows into the Hudson River near the Port of Albany, known as the "Big C." On average, these overflows transpire 45 times annually, discharging approximately 532 million gallons of combined sewer water into the Hudson.
Construction of the pool...
In 1930, against the backdrop of the Great Depression, construction commenced on what would become one of the largest municipal pools in the country. The pool, bathhouse, and ancillary facilities, with a total cost exceeding $100,000 (equivalent to approximately $2 million in 2017), provided a beacon of affordable sports, recreation, and entertainment during challenging times. Its completion marked it as a model for municipal pools nationwide.
Replacing the impractical and hazardous "Rocky Ledge" swimming hole near Delaware Ave., which originated in the mid-1920s, the Lincoln Park swimming pool opened its gates on July 4, 1931. The inaugural year witnessed an overwhelming response from the community, with attendance soaring to over 16,000 on some scorching summer days in the 1930s.
Throughout its 85-year history, the pool has been a transformative space, teaching over 60,000 kids from four generations in Albany the invaluable skill of swimming. A testament to its enduring significance, the pool has only experienced one hiatus in its annual summer opening—1965—due to a severe regional drought that prevented the filling of its one-million-gallon water capacity.
Decline and Revitalization
The pool today...
Credit: Will Waldron/Albany Times Union
Built atop a filled-in ravine, the pool has grappled with persistent leakage issues, losing an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 gallons of water daily. This continual loss has not only strained the city's resources but has also necessitated periodic closures for emergency repairs, both major and minor.
One critical issue revolves around the pool's inability to meet current state health codes governing water filtration and chlorination. State regulations mandate that the entire water volume must be filtered every six hours, yet the pool's existing filtration system falls short, requiring approximately eight hours for a complete cycle. This deficiency not only compromises water quality but also poses a challenge in maintaining a safe and healthy aquatic environment.
Beyond filtration concerns, the pool's design raises safety issues that conflict with current state codes. The wide, oval layout makes it challenging for lifeguards to effectively scan the entire pool, while shallow entry points hinder the installation of ladders essential for modern pool safety standards. Additionally, the absence of clear depth marks adds another layer of safety uncertainty.
The Lincoln Pool has been leaking water since the day it was constructed.
The Mayor's Commitment
Credit: Ashley Hupfl/WAMC
Mayor Kathy Sheehan's commitment to addressing these challenges stems from a dual perspective—recognizing the pool's historical and aesthetic significance to the community while acknowledging the pressing need for essential upgrades. Despite strong community sentiments to preserve the current design, the city emphasizes the importance of finding a delicate balance between aesthetics and functionality. Mayor Sheehan remains adamant about revitalizing the Lincoln Park swimming pool to not only restore it to its former glory but also to ensure the safety, accessibility, and sustainability of this cherished community asset for generations to come.
Recognizing the profound significance of the Lincoln Park swimming pool to the community, a comprehensive public engagement strategy has been devised to ensure that residents actively contribute to the reimagining and redesigning of this historic landmark.
Public Input Opportunities took place Between June and November 2021:
Project Advisory Committee (PAC):
A dedicated committee, comprising community members, stakeholders, and experts, has been established to provide ongoing insights and perspectives throughout the revitalization process.
Public Open Houses (Virtual):
Virtual open houses have been organized to facilitate inclusive discussions, enabling residents to voice their opinions, concerns, and aspirations for the Lincoln Park Pool from the comfort of their homes.
An accessible online survey allows community members to share their thoughts on various aspects of the pool's revitalization. This digital platform ensures a broad spectrum of input, reaching a diverse range of participants.
Input at the Bathhouse:
The bathhouse serves as a physical hub for gathering community input. Residents are encouraged to visit and provide feedback, fostering a direct and personal connection between the revitalization process and the community it serves.
Community engagement extends beyond traditional channels with strategically planned pop-up events. These informal gatherings offer spontaneous opportunities for residents to share their ideas and visions for the pool's future.
Workshop Meeting (In-person):
An in-person workshop meeting provides a structured setting for collaborative discussions. Residents can actively participate in shaping the design and functionality of the pool, contributing to the decision-making process.
Voting on a Final Design
In the summer of 2022, Albany city introduced two replacement concepts for the historic Lincoln Park pool, seeking input from the public. On the site of the former pool in downtown Albany, with its empty and cracked floor, more than 1,500 residents participated in the feedback process. The first option, which includes a zero-entry pool, a concession area, a splash pad for kids, and an 1/2 sized Olympic lap pool, emerged as the preferred choice by a substantial 3-to-1 margin, highlighting the community's significant influence in shaping the decision.
As part of the reconstruction project some trees will need to be cut due to their condition or earthworks needed to stabilize the steep slope on the far side of the pool. The City is committed to ensuring only the minimum number of trees are taken down. Each tree will be replaced by a native species of tree and efforts are being made to ensure replacement trees are appropriate for the historic context of the site. At this time we anticipate no more than 15 trees are slated to be cut. The majority of those trees are at the far side of the pool where the new terrace will be constructed.
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