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Column: Beloved, historic pools define communities
by Thornton Kennedy
Northside Neighbor Columnist
June 04, 2013 12:38 PM | 2229 views | 1 1 comments | 108 108 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
Given the numbers, the outcome was so implausible it defied logic.

Last year, with hundreds of swimmers on both teams, the Tidal Waves of the Chastain Park Athletic Club and the Cool Sharks of the Garden Hills Pool and Park Association tied in a head-to-head swim meet. Had it been between any other swim teams, there might have been an outcry and acquisitions and teeth gnashing. But these two community pools are so closely tied to one another, it was celebrated as an anomaly for the ages.

You see, there are only two city of Atlanta public pools in Buckhead. One is Chastain Park; the other is Garden Hills.

Chronologically the Garden Hills pool precedes Chastain by a year or two. I do not have the exact date the pool opened, but it was an amenity built by Garden Hills developer P.C. McDuffie. The neighborhood was developed between 1925 and 1941, and it is thought the pool dates back to the 1930s. In 1942, the Garden Hills Garden Club added the pool house and the playground. It was operated as a private neighborhood pool until it was taken over by the city of Atlanta in the 1950s. In 1977, the pool house burned to the ground. The source of the fire remains a mystery. In 1979, the current pool house was built.

An effort is under way to build the new Dan Martin Pool House, a $750,000, 4,900-square-foot facility that would house rest rooms, a concession stand and community room. The association needs to raise $200,000 before July 31 in order to begin construction when the pool closes in the fall. It is named in honor of a Buckhead institution, Dan Martin, who owned an eponymous flower shop on Peachtree Road and was a huge supporter of the Garden Hills community even though he lived in Pine Mountain. Dan died in 2011.

Opened in 1942 as part of North Fulton Park, the pool in what is now Chastain Park was built for competitive swimming. The Olympic-sized pool played host to a number of high-profile events over its distinguished history, not the least of which were the Havatlanta Games, a Goodwill Games-type sports competition between Cuba and Atlanta from 1948 to 1959. The grandstands that line the western edge of the pool were constructed so patrons could watch the action. Before the city of Atlanta filled the deep end of the pool with several feet of concrete, diving competitions were there as well. There were two 1-meter platforms and a high dive.

Both pools were threatened when the city of Atlanta faced budget shortfalls. For Garden Hills this was in the early 1980s. For Chastain it was in 2001, when the city moved to condemn the pool following a damning engineering study. In both cases, neighbors and residents formed associations, raised money and took over operations.

There are other pools open to everyone — Brookwood Hills comes to mind — but the pools in Garden Hills and Chastain are unique. They are truly municipal pools that have served the community and city of Atlanta for more than 70 years and are thriving today.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and can be reached at

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