Hidden away behind a concrete wall at the Gainesville Elks Lodge is a largely forgotten piece of the city's past. From the 1920s to 1970, the Glen Springs pool was Gainesville's swimming hole — a spring-fed pool located only minutes from downtown.By Christopher CurryStaff writer
Hidden away behind a concrete wall at the Gainesville Elks Lodge is a largely forgotten piece of the city's past.
From the 1920s to 1970, the Glen Springs pool was Gainesville's swimming hole — a spring-fed pool located only minutes from downtown.
Small children — those who were allowed in during the era of segregation — learned to swim in the shallow water closest to the spring. Older kids could bound off the diving board and into the deep end.
The adjacent pool house hosted dances and boasted a covered outdoor deck that, while now enclosed, still has its original wood floor.
Postcards captured images of the pool's heyday.
In one 1920s era black-and-white shot, two young men in swimming trunks stood on side-by-side diving boards — poised to plunge in.
In a color image, a tall palm tree stands over the pool's clear blue waters.
The spring was so much a part of the community that the roadway running next to the property — Northwest 23rd Avenue — came to be known as Glen Springs Road.
And Gainesville-bred rock legend Tom Petty reminisced about childhood trips to the spring in his song "Dreamville."
But the glory days of Glen Springs have long since passed.
Today, thick green algae has turned the once clear water murky. On most days, the only swimmers are the bream, bass and other fish stocked in the pool for the lodge's children's fishing days. The only exception is the occasional otter that stops by to make a meal of those fish.
A decrepit diving board still stands over the deep end, where the concrete deck has crumbled and deteriorated to the point that only a few lodge members there to clean the pool will venture down to that area.
But a community effort is taking shape to try to restore Glen Springs to at least a portion of its past glory.
Some members of the Elks Lodge are working with the Howard T. Odum Springs Institute, current and former University of Florida students and community members to launch a restoration effort.
Prominent local businessman C. Addison Pound Sr. bought the spring and surrounding property in the 1920s and hired Guy Chandler Fulton, an architect who designed several buildings on the University of Florida campus, to design the pool.
The Elks Lodge bought the property from Pound around 1970.
For the members of the Elks involved, the restoration focus is the pool and a possible attempt to get it listed on the National Register of Historic Places, said Linda Califf, the lodge member leading the effort.
"The pool is an awesome feature," she said. "I can see what it could be. I can see this thing nice and pristine and landscaped. But it takes time."
Because the city of Gainesville does not allow chlorine to be discharged into Hogtown Creek, which the pool drains into through an underground pipe, it is unlikely to be a swimming pool again, Califf said.
Still, she said it could be open for public tours and event rentals.
The Elks Lodge has asked Paul Czapiga, owner of Gainesville Pool Renovators, to develop a cost estimate for restoration work. The project would be of special significance for Czapiga.
"I learned to swim here," he said. "It was the only place to swim. You came down here and had a lot of fun. There wasn't much to do in Gainesville back them. This was the community pool."
Bob Knight, the director of the Odum Springs Institute, said his focus is on the restoration of the spring itself, which has seen a decline in both its flow and its water quality over the decades.
"Glen Spring is a small spring but it is a microcosm for what is going on in our bigger springs right now," Knight said. "Nobody could expect it to get back to what it was, but it could definitely be improved from what it is."
In 2010, one of Knight's students, Amy Grossman, came up with a restoration plan for the spring as a class project. Groundwater pumping from private wells, fertilizer use and septic tank discharges all have taken a toll on Glen Spring, the report stated.
The best option for restoring it into its natural state would come through public ownership or acquisition by a conservation group, she concluded. Two years removed from Knight's class, Grossman is updating her restoration plan for the city's forgotten spring.
She hopes it will spark renewed public interest in Gainesville's old swimming hole.
"There are people in this community who feel it is being neglected as a feature in our community," she said.
Source : http://www.gainesville.com/article/LK/20120416/News/604135475/GS/