School’s out, the temperature is on the rise, and the kids are heading for the swimming pool – a great way to stay cool and entertained during the hot summer months. Many summer rec programs are centered on a town’s swimming pool, a staple in summertime entertainment. It’s hard to imagine Dell Rapids or any other similar town without a pool.
Swimming pools have actually been around for centuries; in fact, the first swimming pool was “The Great Bath,” built in Pakistan 5000 years ago. Most scholars believe it was used for religious purposes. Later, the ancient Greeks and Romans built pools that were used for bathing, religious functions, health, socializing, and physically training for war. School children were required to learn swimming as part of the regular curriculum along with math, astronomy, writing, and science.
In 305 AD the Romans built a gigantic 900,000 square ft. pool. The water was heated by giant fires under the floor of the pool. It was built specifically as a bath for everyone in the city.
Roman and Greek emperors had huge ornate pools with live fish. In fact, the word pool comes from the word “piscine,” which means fish.
The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896, and included several swimming events. As a result of those events, the popularity of swimming began to spread, and in 1907, the first above-ground swimming pool in the U.S. (and one of the first in the world) was built by the Philadelphia Racquet Club.
Dell Rapids, however, didn’t get a swimming pool until 1960. But there was plenty of summer recreation in Dell Rapids’ early days. In 1907 there was a well-organized tennis club, with matches scheduled every Friday. The park had 12 tennis courts and a 36 member tennis club. In addition to tennis, there was a baseball team with talented locals and salaried professionals. There was also a race track for horse racing. The most prominent of all summer activities, though, was a beautiful sand beach on the Sioux River. In 1917, the sand beach in Dell Rapids was considered one of the best in the Midwest, with its 40 foot speed chute, ring trapeze, diving towers, and safety cables. The annual water carnival in 1918, with swimming and canoe contests, drew more than 400 from Sioux Falls alone.
In 1934, a quarried stone bathhouse was built as a Civil Works Administration project. The bathhouse was named after Gina Smith Campbell, whose vision and dedication led to the development of the sand beach in 1917. Through the efforts of Eagle Scout Joe Holles, the Gina Smith Campbell Bathhouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
In 1960 the river as a swimming and bathing beach closed down, and a new swimming and wading pool were built at a cost of $60,000. The days of the beautiful sand beach became a distant but wonderful memory for all those who took advantage of our beautiful summer playground on the Big Sioux in Dell Rapids.