Rock Lake Pool, located in South Charleston, was created in the 1930s from an abandoned limestone quarry. The 200-by-400-foot pool was one of the largest concrete-bottom pools in the United States. Water slides, spraying fountain, and trapeze swings helped make Rock Lake a popular recreation spot. As many as 4,000 people were known to visit on a hot summer day. WCHS-TV broadcast dance shows from the upstairs of Rock Lake’s clubhouse.
In the 1960s, Rock Lake became a civil rights battleground. The pool remained racially segregated even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination in places of public accommodation. African-American clergymen Homer Davis and Paul Gilmer led those seeking to desegregate Rock Lake, the only public swimming pool of any size in the Charleston area. Protests included a march featuring a speech by the Reverend C. T. Vivian, an aide to Martin Luther King Jr., and a human blockade in front of the ticket window. Finally in 1967, Rock Lake allowed blacks to use the facility.
While Rock Lake survived the civil rights controversy, factors such as the building of government-subsidized swimming pools and rising insurance costs later contributed to the pool’s demise. The owners closed Rock Lake in 1985 and sold the property in the early 1990s. In 1993, Putt-Putt Golf and Games Center opened there, featuring three miniature golf courses amid the 60-foot cliffs, as well as paddleboats, picnic facilities, and arcade games. Later, a go-cart track was added as Rock Lake became a popular recreation facility once again. However, its popularity declined after the beginning of the new century, and the games center closed its doors in 2006. Shortly after, the property was purchased by the Rock Lake Presbyterian Church, which demolished the buildings and converted the land to church use.
This Article was written by Allison Smith
Last Revised on October 29, 2010