Richmond Plunge public pool set to reopen


Once upon a time, enormous public pools were so grand they were not called public pools, they were "natatoriums."

And even as natatoriums go, Richmond's was always so much more.

"During WWII, where the ethnicities were being mixed because of the ships and the shipyards, there was racial tensions, but here at the plunge those tensions would vanish," architect Todd Jersey said.

Opened in 1926, the Richmond Plunge was a place where everyone came together, practically until it almost fell apart. In 1997 inspectors warned the city that this pool was no longer safe; the walls were basically in danger of falling down. People could still swim, but they had to swim at their own risk. By 2001 that risk just got to be too great and the doors of the Richmond Plunge closed for good.

"They actually had sign out there that that said, 'Use the sidewalk at your own risk,'" Jersey said.

Bringing the Plunge back to life has been a labor of love for Jersey. Crews are now in a race against time to finish the final touches for its grand opening in less than two weeks.

There was a time when it seemed like they would never get this far. The nearly $8 million retrofit was only possible thanks to grants and donations; sometimes one and five dollars at a time.

"I was afraid if didn't get fixed it would get torn down and they'd put a Burger King or something up," longtime Richmond resident Ellie Strauss said. "It was the gateway to our town; it was old, it was honorable."

Now the pool is even environmentally friendly and it is just about open for business.

"It's going to really help Richmond's image; this is a regional pool that's going to be well loved and well used and it's going to have Richmond's name on it," Jersey said.

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