From the sandy shores of the Gulf to the swimming holes around the bend of our rivers, to man-made pools, everywhere you look, we’re surrounded by it. As a coastal city, Mobile has always been known for its deep connection to the water and all the sports and activities associated with it. Maybe it’s because our bodies are made up of almost 70 percent water, but for some reason when our tropical weather heats up, it’s hard to resist jumping into the crisp, cool moisture seeking relief from the heat.
Elaborate waterfront parks were a fixture in Mobile in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Monroe Park, Arlington Park and Crystal Pool provided many Mobilians with hours of recreation. Thrill seekers and weekenders would flock to Monroe Park on what was once Bay Shell Road to enjoy an afternoon dip in the refreshing waters and a ride on one of the nation’s first rollercoasters.
The Country Club of Mobile
At the Country Club of Mobile, established in 1899, an Olympic-size pool attracted swimmers from across the city. Today, adult and junior league swim teams practice and compete here. Despite the devastating fire that swept through its facilities in 1925, the club stood the test of time. The Spring Hill facility now features a separate children’s pool to accommodate families.
Prichard City Pool
The city of Prichard’s pool, part of the park system, was a popular water spot developed in the 1940s.
In 1914, Pat J. Lyons developed Lyons Park off Catherine Street and Springhill Avenue. The park’s pool was a huge draw for neighborhood children. Well into the 1950s, the pitter-patter of little feet could be heard scurrying across the asphalt of the busy throughfare in anticipation of the relief dipping a toe in the cool waters would bring. While the park still exists today, the pool is long gone.
Spring Hill College deveopled Mirror Lake in 1832. M. Beroujan, who also designed the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, designed the walls to contain the waters that flowed from springs in the area. Boys, young and old, swam and bathed in the lake. This caused a problem during the Civil War when students encountered Union soldiers bathing there as well. The lake also provided the college with its water supply. It was eventually opened to both sexes, when the college began admitting women in 1952. Students continued to swim at the lake until there were problems with the water supply’s purity. The lake is still on Spring Hill College’s campus, but is now an overgrown section that students rarely visit.
Gulf State Park
Gulf State Park opened in 1939, when the U.S. government gave the land to the state of Alabama. The call of the sand and surf has beckoned locals and visitors to this popular swimming destination ever since. The 6, 150-acre property includes sand dunes, marshes, a freshwater lake, pine forests, and of course, a 2-mile white sandy beach along the Gulf of Mexico. The site underwent renovations in 2012, adding new lodging facilities and a 5, 000-square-foot pool to replace the one destroyed by Hurricane Ivan.
Since 1894, Fairhope Pier has been a prime social gathering place for folks on the Eastern Shore. Whether for swimming or reeling in a big one, the 1/4-mile structure has always been a favorite getaway spot.
Located on Dog River, Grandview Park was a popular hangout for families and teenagers in the 1930s and ’40s. At one time or another, the park had a sandy beach, slides, a merry-go-round and other playground equipment. Today an apartment complex stands in the park’s former location beside Dog River Bridge.