Proud ‘watermark’ for Tompkinsville

September 17, 2008 at 5:33 pm Leave a comment

The city yesterday designated the Joseph H. Lyons Pool in Tompkinsville a protected historic structure — even though it’s underwater.

The unanimous vote by the Landmarks Preservation Commission should gladden the swimmers who use the Olympic-size public swimming pool, located on Pier 6 at Hannah Street and Victory Boulevard.

Built during the Depression with money from the Works Progress Administration, it’s one of 11 in the city recognized as being among the most remarkable public recreation facilities ever built in the U.S., the commission said in a statement released yesterday.

West Brighton resident Ira Wells would have to agree. He was 12 years old when he attended the opening-day celebration at the pool on July 7, 1936. The summer that year broke local heat records and the new public pools provided much-needed relief.

“We lived in Stapleton at the time and I walked to the pool because I didn’t want to spend money on the bus. I do remember that day very well. I’d never seen a pool that large and I was impressed,” Wells recalled recently. “It was so important to the kids during the Depression to have that facility here on Staten Island, to have a place to cool themselves off.”

The Lyons Pool is actually one of the more modest of the city pools that opened during Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s administration. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, the city’s master builder, assembled a team of designers to create the 11 pools, seven of which already have received landmark status, according to the commission.

“For one of the smaller [WPA] pools, it has a heroic quality to it,” Pablo Vengoechea, Staten Island’s representative on the commission, said in casting his vote to landmark Lyons pool.

The pool sits on a 2.5-acre slice of waterfront and can accommodate as many as 2,800 people on steamy summer days. It was named for World War I veteran and Islander Joseph H. Lyons, who formed the borough’s chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The recreation center, which also was landmarked, typifies Art Moderne style, with a domed entry rotunda, curved end walls and clerestory windows. Inside the rotunda, the lobby’s terrazzo flooring survives.

Also landmarked yesterday was the Betsy Head Pool in Brooklyn.

Karen O’Shea
Staten Island Advance

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