Museum

Old River Park Swimming Pool

Old River Park Swimming Pool

The lucky kids who had a parent who worked for National Cash Register in Dayton, Ohio pretty well had their summer fun assured among the thousands beating the heat in the two-acre swimming pool or canoeing through the peaceful waters of the 1.5-mile lagoon.

Old River was the vision of Colonel Edward Deeds, president and board chairman, who began his career under the tutelage of NCR founder John H. Patterson. Deeds had assisted Patterson in acquiring the farms and other parcels of land that became Hills & Dales Park, and he took to heart his mentor's philosophy on the importance of employee recreation. Deeds resigned from NCR in 1915, and Patterson donated Hills & Dales to the city in 1918. After Deeds rejoined NCR as Chairman in 1931, he decided that NCR employees should have another park where they could go with their families to relax and enjoy the out-of-doors.

The Depression years of the 1930s were hardly an ideal time to embark on the construction of an elaborate employee recreation facility, and doubtless many of his colleagues must have wondered if his age wasn't catching up to him. But the Colonel, a unique combination of visionary and pragmatist, took advantage of a tricky union negotiation to find the funds needed to carry out his grand scheme. Deeds offered to build a recreation park if the employees would settle for a few cents less on the hour. They agreed, and Deeds proceeded to make good on his promise. Because they contributed so much to its funding, many employees over the years would refer to Old River as “Bonus Park.”

In 1937, Deeds brought in the bulldozers. Swampland was drained, the low areas filled and seeded, and the old river bed combined with new excavation to make a lagoon. Very quickly, under the direction of Olmsted Brothers, world-famous landscape architects who designed New York's Central Park, the debris-littered acreage in NCR's backyard was transformed into one of the nation's model industrial recreation parks. Its scenic beauty was also designed to enhance Patterson Boulevard, which by 1938 was being improved as an impressive southern gateway to the city. Because the park was built partially on the former bed of the Miami River, Deeds named it “Old River.” It opened to NCR employees and their families on June 3, 1939.

The large, round swimming pool with its tall center tower had a capacity of 1.5 million gallons of water and was used by as many as 6,000 bathers per day. The construction of the bathhouse continued a longtime NCR tradition, dating back to Patterson's day, of being able to complete a building almost overnight. The company took great pride in the fact that the bathhouse was put under roof in only eleven and a half working days and was completed in thirty-six and one-half working days. The pool was fed with warm water from the NCR Powerhouse. Water from the pool then flowed into the lagoon.

The 33-acre park, completed in 1939, was once open only to NCR employees, retirees and their families. It was closed by NCR in 1998 in a cost-saving move. NCR demolished the park’s historic pool at that time, which will not reopen.

Reopened as a public park in 2009. 

 



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