When Community Institutions Are Lost | Past & Present

Jul 25, 2017

Credit Van L. Johnson

Wichita, like many other U.S. cities during the early-to-mid twentieth century, placed restrictions on how African Americans could use municipal swimming pools. According to numerous local blacks who lived during this era, the pool at Riverside Park was especially notorious in this regard.

The fortunes of local African American swimmers improved dramatically in 1969 with the construction of a swimming pool at McAdams Park. This facility, created by the renowned black architect Charles McAfee, received a design award from the American Institute of Architects in 1970.

For the next several decades, not only did residents in the McAdams neighborhood enjoy this first-class aquatic facility, but so did swimming enthusiasts across the Wichita Metro area.

Notwithstanding its admirable history, the McAdams Park pool has recently been closed by the Wichita City Council as part of its “Aquatics Master Plan.” This report contends that the McAdams Park pool has been minimally used in recent years and needs extensive equipment repair. But neighborhood residents argue that a dramatic reduction in the pool’s operating hours contributed mightily to its diminished use. While McAdams Park pool is not the only neighborhood pool slated for closure, it is the first one to actually suffer this fate.

History clearly suggests that when community institutions are lost, they are unlikely to be replaced. This reality has contributed to a growing movement of citizens seeking the reopening and refurbishing of the McAdams Park pool.