Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Also, a birthday

Just a note that on July 31, the McCarren Pool will be 75 years old, having opened on July 31, 1936.

1936 might be considered a sort of annus mirabilis of municipal pool construction in New York City. Between June 27 and August 17, through the efforts of Fiorello Laguardia, Robert Moses, and the WPA, ten pools were opened around the five boroughs, three of them in Brooklyn:

McCarren Pool in Greenpoint, July 31

Betsy Head Pool in Brownsville, August 7

Sol Goldman Pool in Red Hook, August 17

After being closed and neglected for almost 30 years, McCarren Pool is in the process of being rebuilt but won't be ready to reopen until the spring of 2012. McCarren Pool was the largest of the WPA pools constructed.

I wasn't able to find any "free" photos of McCarren Pool in its palmy days but, going back even further in time, I found a photograph* of the funeral of the pool's namesake, and I thought, what the hell.

*"McCarren Funeral 1909" is from the Bain Collction at the Library of Congress. Call #: LC-B2- 911-15 [P&P]

Patrick Henry McCarren was a local politician and a state senator who died in 1909 at the age of 62. Also, unlike some people with highways or parks or pools named after them, he actually was from the neighborhood. He lived at 97 Berry Street at the time of his death and his funeral was conducted in St. Vincent de Paul Church on North 6th between Driggs and Bedford Avenues. Sadly, or perhaps not, all the ivy in the photo above has been removed . . . but replaced by scaffolding.

By the way, anyone interested in the transformation of New York City under Robert Moses could do worse than get a copy of: Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York. Edited by Hilary Ballon and Kenneth T. Jackson, W.W. Norton, 2007.

It is a beautiful and comprehensive book covering Moses's career as master builder (for good or ill) in New York, and is lavishly illustrated with period and contemporary photos.

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