Waddell Pool

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View of Waddell Pool, 1934

In the Good Old Summertime.
With the long dreary winter finally behind us, everyone is looking forward to the summer with its sunshine and even its hot humid days. For many years in Niles that would mean spending hours swimming, sunbathing, and having fun with family and friends at Waddell Pool.

In July 1929 Jacob D. Waddell, vice president of Empire Steel Corporation, presented the city with 52 acres of land to be used as a municipal park. It was located just outside the city limits between Park and Warren Ave. and on both sides of Lovers Lane. Mr. Waddell was hailed as “Niles’ Greatest Benefactor” for his generous gift. Plans to improve the land with electricity and sewage began immediately. By June 1930 a new baseball field was dedicated with Mrs. Waddell throwing out the first pitch. It was hoped that a swimming pool might someday be added to the park. The Waddells were the last residents of the Ward-Thomas House, now the museum of the Niles Historical Society. Their portraits are displayed there.


With the Great Depression of the 1930’s in full effect, the federal government announced a public works program offering to pay 30% of the cost of projects that would give work to the needy. The idea of a swimming pool and bath house in Waddell Park began to take shape. City council applied for $40,000 under the National Recovery Act. The architects were Ackley, Bradey, and Nelis from East Liverpool.The first concrete was poured in February 1934 and work began as soon as construction material arrived. Warren at the time was also building their slightly smaller swimming pool in Packard Park under the same program.


The pool was 100 feet wide and 200 feet long. It ranged from 3 feet to 11 feet deep and held 800,000 gallons of water. An oval-shaped children’s pool was located just north and was 25 feet wide and 40 feet long. It slanted to 18 inches with 9,375 gallons of water. A fountain aerated each pool. The bath house also encompassed the filtration system with the water being tested hourly and meeting drinking water standards. The total cost was $120,000 including all labor and material.

Diving boards at Waddell Pool
The pool was dedicated Wednesday July 25,1934. The newspaper stated,” to several thousand swimming enthusiasts of the city, today marks a noted change from an unsanitary dirtied water creek swimming hole to the most modern and up-to-date pool.” S.J. Bonham, superintendent of Niles schools, delivered the address. The pool staff was introduced including pool manager, cashiers, checkroom attendants, and lifeguards. The night included a water pageant, diving exhibition, and music by the high school band. A flag donated by Mrs. Waddell was raised. The ceremony was attended by 5,000 people after which 750 made use of the new pool. Niles had one of the most outstanding, modern, and largest civic pools in the state.

Pool hours were from 9:30-9:00. In the morning various groups could swim for free. Monday morning was the only time “colored people” could use the pool. Lou Tabor in his memoirs tells of convincing city administrators to let black citizens use the pool equally since they were taxpayers as well. Tuesday mornings was for children from playgrounds east of Mosquito Creek and Wednesday was for those from the west side. All other times admission was $.20 for adults and $.10 for children. Rules included compulsory showers and the exclusion of those with communicable diseases and open sores.

Back wall of Waddell Pool
Of course no boisterous play or smoking was allowed. Bathing suits had to be clean, modest, and meet the approval of management. The wearing of swim trunks without shirts was not permitted. That short pool season ended on September 16,1934. Entrance fees collected totaled $1,574.70 from 8,325 children and 3,711 adults. Free swimming was provided for 3,816.

Front entrance to Waddell poool

Through the decades countless children and adults have vivid recollections of swim lessons, birthday parties or picnics, and day after day of swimming in the pool. Other memories of summer romances, squabbles with friends, and blistering sunburns may have faded.

Waddell Pool opened in 1934 and closed in 2014. Although its future is uncertain today, many fondly remember its past.

Recent front entrance to Waddell pool
Rear view of Waddell Pool
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