As construction progresses at Central School in Riverside, one of the results of converting the old District 96 offices in the lower level into a new multipurpose room with new classrooms above it is the loss of an often talked about but rarely seen Central School legend.
The swimming pool is officially history.
Long hidden from public view, the pool had stood empty of water for nearly 100 years after it was shut down for good in the early 1920s. A spectacular boondoggle almost from the start, the pool was part of a classroom/athletic facilities addition, funded partially by a $55,000 bond issue, built onto Central School in 1914.
The funds to build the pool itself were a gift to the school district in memory of the late Riverside resident Abraham Mitchell. The trouble was, the district didn’t have any money to fund the pool’s operation, and by 1915 the school board was threatening to close it and asking for donations.
The public scraped together all of $150 to bail out the pool’s operating deficit and by 1918, as coal prices skyrocketed with the country’s entry into World War I, the pool was closed.
Another fundraising campaign after the war was successful enough to reopen the pool in 1921, but water filtration problems ensured it never made it through the decade. Around 1927, according to news reports of the time, the pool was converted into a gymnasium for lower grades, though it had been drained and used for storage several years before that.
In 1968, the school district’s central offices were built above the pool, shielding it from view. Since then, access to the abandoned pool had been via a rickety metal ladder reached via a trap door in a boiler room.
Ramesh Nair, who is serving as District 96’s owner’s rep for the construction project, said it will take 37 truckloads of gravel to fill in the pool. It has to be filled in to support the multipurpose room.
“The easiest way to do it is to fill it,” Nair said. “They’re not going to bring the pool back.”