Diving into Brook Field Park Swimming Pool
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed Richmond’s Brook Field Park Swimming Pool in 1938. The pool was a segregated one, operating exclusively for the African American people of the city, as was normal practice in the Jim Crow era.
Made out of concrete, the pool’s physical dimensions were listed as 185 x 60 feet by 2 and a half to 11 feet deep. Like other WPA pool projects, the Brook Field Park Swimming Pool included the most modern equipment of the day, including a circulation pump and filter system as well as water treatment tools and a series of floodlights. The complex also included a brick bathhouse with concrete floors and walls lined with salt-glazed tile.
The pool was located in Brook Field park, an important recreation center for Richmond’s Black residents. Supported by civic funding as well as that of the WPA, the park included open space for children to play, tennis courts, and a baseball diamond. The legendary tennis player and civil rights activist Arthur Ashe learned the game in the North Richmond park.
In the late 1950s, the 16-acre Brook Field Park – along with its swimming pool – was razed to make room for a new development project, completed in 1970. Nonetheless, Brook Field Park Swimming Pool remains a source of pride and happy memories for African Americans in Richmond.
“Pool for Richmond Negroes,” Parks & Recreation. June 1941.
Samantha Willis, “A Place for Us,” Richmond Magazine. December 12, 2018. https://richmondmagazine.com/news/richmond-history/a-place-for-us/
Project originally submitted by Gray Brechin on March 20, 2022.
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