Good swimming facilities are taken for granted in Whitewater today, but prior to 1910, the few options in town were only attractive to “skinny dipping” boys and young men. In building a swimming pool and playground, Whitewater’s citizens ushered in the 20th century era of safe
swimming for all.
In the 19th century, boys were known to swim at two unsupervised locations, the mill pond now known as Trippe Lake and the mill pond of the old Red Mill that was located where the Whitewater Country Club is located today. At that time, Trippe Lake was referred to as the
paper mill swimming hole and later the condensery pond or swimming hole, after the industries that used the dam that created the pond. Numerous post cards in the museum’s collections show the old paper mill dam, many marked “the old swimming hole.”
Unsupervised swimming in mill ponds was often dangerous and unsanitary. In 1909, the Whitewater Register mentioned that boys were coming home from swimming in the paper mill pond with rashes and were getting sick, a sign that the water was laden with bacteria. And girls were never mentioned using the “old swimming hole,” probably because it was dangerous, but also because the boys usually swam nude.
In 1910, a group of citizens raised enough money to fund a playground and supervised swimming pool to be used by both boys and girls. It was located behind the old stone mill in a low area that sits across the street from today’s Brewery Hill skate park. Using the natural terrain, it was easy to dredge out a pool that could be enclosed and filled with the water flowing out of the old stone mill. The constant flow of water helped keep the pool sanitary and a playground was an added attraction.
The pool opened in September of 1910, but it was not free. Tickets cost 75 cents for adults and 35 cents for children. The pool had a few successful seasons and its swimming lessons were an important contribution to children’s safety. But, it never completely replaced the popularity of the paper mill pond.
By 1919, the pool closed, partly because city residents felt that improving the mill pond with a beach area, bath house, and adult supervision, was the best solution for providing safe swimming in Whitewater for all. Eventually, the City of Whitewater took over the “old swimming hole,” making it an official city recreation site for decades until the aquatic center was built. Around 1970, the mill pond became known as Trippe Lake.
*If using this article, please cite, Carol Lohry Cartwright, “Whitewater’s First Swimming Pool,” 2017, Whitewater Historical Society website, Whitewater, WI.