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Buildings that weren’t: Nelson aquatic centre, 1947

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

The following concept sketch of an aquatic centre for Nelson’s Lakeside Park appeared in the Daily News of Oct. 25, 1949, signed by local architect Bill Williams.

It was proposed by the local Kinsmen Club. According to the caption

The completed building will include, on the ground floor, a bathhouse of four sections, men, boys, women, girls; a checkroom, a first aid room, a large concession booth, a furnace room and the Rowing Club. The top floor will include a large ballroom, a lounge with fireplace, a spacious tearoom and lunch counter, checkrooms and janitor’s quarters. Verandahs on both floors will be 15 feet deep, and will provide seating facilities for 1,500 people. Directly in front of the building will be an enclosed swimming pool of regulation size, with a diving tower constructed according to Olympic standards.

The club thought by the following spring they would have enough money to complete the lower floor. But it was never built and I’m not sure why. The idea had been around for a few years already; the sketch first appeared in the newspaper on Nov. 10, 1947.

However, Bill’s wife Ilsa, also an architect, designed a bathhouse for Lakeside Park, constructed in 1953. Peter Bartl, author of The Modernist Heritage of Nelson Architecture, writes of the above sketch: “The stairs on the left might be the ones which are now in front of Ilsa Williams’ bathhouse.”

In 1954, the Nelson Rotary Club voted to build a swimming pool next to the bathhouse to celebrate Rotary’s golden anniversary, to be officially known as Rotary Lakeside Swimming Pool. David Fairbank, a Rotarian, designed the 75 x 49 foot pool for which the City of Nelson provided $12,000 while the club raised $13,130.

Contractor Louis Maglio began construction in September 1955 and the pool officially opened on Aug. 17, 1957, under the auspices of Rotary president Reg Dill and past presidents Bill Ramsay and David Fairbank.

According to the History of Rotary Club of Nelson, a booklet published in 1972:

Mayor [and] Rotarian Joe Kary accepted the pool on behalf of the citizens of Nelson … He then tossed a mini-sized life preserver into the pool which was retrieved by Nelson’s Jubilee Queen, Miss Jane Miller, whereupon all the assembled kid splashed into the pool. Having heard rumors of foul play, Reg Dill, Dave Fairbank, and Bill Ramsay jumped in fully clothed rather than be pushed in.

Unfortunately, the pool cracked. When it could no longer be sealed, the city announced in March 1969 that the pool would be abandoned. Fairbank presented a schedule of repairs that was about one-third of the estimate of outside consultants. The city accepted the proposal and repaired the pool. It was only at that time that a heating system was finally installed.

When the new indoor aquatic centre opened in 1975 the Lakeside Park pool became redundant although I’m not sure when it was removed and filled in. Few pictures seem to exist of the pool and walking overtop its former site, you’d never guess that it was ever there.

Updated Nov. 22, 2020 to clarify that the sketch was completed in 1947, not 1949.

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