A summer centerpiece
The glittering pool in Payne Park quickly becomes a vibrant centerpiece of the community. Daily public swimming hours are maintained for all ages throughout the summer. Swimming classes are held for the benefit of both children and adults (a practical skill to have in a city bounded by the Erie Canal and the Niagara River). Night swims are offered. Countless public and school competitions will be held in here in the following decades. For instance, in September 1948, the 1st Annual Labor Day Swimming Reggata is recorded in the Tonawanda News. In 1950, the pool hosts the Swim Meet portion of the multi-venue, multi-event T-NT Sports carnival.
According to the NT Recreation Department's annual report, August 3, 1956 is a record-breaking day, with over 1,900 swimmers coming to the pool (with a daily average of 1,403). By 1962, the daily average is up to 1,971.
In the 1960s, teen dances are held on the grounds. Local acts such as The Caravans perform the new guitar-driven music. Movies are projected against the side of the pool in the 1980s.
An example of a "Bintz pool" design
Its above-ground construction, ovoid shape and many other details are hallmarks of the so-called "Bintz pool," named after Wesley Bintz, a Michigan-born architect who made a long career of designing similar pools for town and city settings throughout the country from the 1920s into the 1950s. From Wikipedia:
In the early 1920s, Wesley Bintz came to work in the [Lansing, MI] city engineer's office, only a few years after receiving his degree from the University of Michigan in 1918. In 1922 he became the City Engineer, and in that capacity he designed [The Moores Park] natatorium, which was constructed in 1923. Bintz resigned later that year, and began a career devoted to designing swimming pools.Original features and modifications
The design is a sort of brick and concrete Art Deco. A brick exterior curves around the pool portion. In front, two memorial plaques dedicate the structure. When first opened, a concession stand occupies part of the lobby. Also in the lobby, two "vision windows" give an underwater view of divers. To the left and right of the lobby, separate women's and men's entrances are provided, respectively, with restrooms, showers, and foot baths forcing swimmers to rinse their feet again before climbing the stairs to the pool. Spectators use a third entrance to the deck above.
Originally a wading pool is built into the deck at the west end, later to be replaced by the guard house and office. Lanterns hang from the long, curved posts around the pool's perimeter (they seem to be supplemented with other lights early on, and are at some point removed altogether; other Bintz pools had globes atop the posts). A low and high dive are provided on opening day.
Admission is free, and residents are permitted to bring one guest. Rules prohibit blowing one's nose in the pool: for this purpose, "scum gutters" are provided around the pool, collecting debris.
A diving platform ("plat") and large and small slides are added later. The slides and platform are later replaced with a single curli-q slide on the south east end. 1976 sealed bids for "1 meter diving stand" accepted. Before the 1987 season, a major reonovation is undertaken, among other things to make the pool wheelchair-accessible. The front facade is replaced and reconfigured at this time.
Like most Bintz pools across the country, the Memorial Pool in North Tonawanda inevitably suffers from the ravages of time, the elements, and finite City resources. In June 2023, the City announces the pool will not re-open in 2023, and that it will retire the crumbling pool after 75 distinguished years of servcice. A new facility is promised, perhaps using some of te original structure.
This video from Preservation Buffalo Niagara uses a few of my photos and articles to tell the pool's story.
An identical Bintz pool in the Town of Tonawanda, built in 1954.
Estate has deadline to remove Ken's Hot Dog Stand from Payne Memorial Pool property, article (Tonawanda News, 1978-06-08).jpg
Photos by Dennis Reed Jr.
Wesley Bintz made a career out of building municipal swimming pools across the United States. These examples show how the basic design was adapted to…
Closure of North Tonawanda Pool is the end of an era, article (Samantha Christmann, Buffalo News, 2023).htm
As a kid in North Tonawanda, every summer morning in 1988 was the same ritual. I would stretch on my purple swimsuit, still damp from the night…