Cascade Plunge

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1929 postcard view of the Cascade Plunge entrance

The Cascade Plunge and Pavilion, billed as "Birmingham's Resort Beautiful," was a large swimming pool surrounded by covered grandstands located at 6815 2nd Avenue South in East Lake. The resort, which opened in 1923, had its own stop on the No. 27 Ensley No. 38 South East Lake streetcar line.

The privately-owned attraction, inspired by the Nashville, Tennessee resort of the same name, was built for the Cascade Aquatic Club for $175,000 and managed by the Whittle System of Pleasure Resorts, who also operated the Nashville Cascade Plunge at Cumberland Park, the Warner Park resort in Chattanooga, and the Whittle Springs Hotel in Knoxville. During construction of the pool, O. D. Whittle indicated that his company was also working to develop a $1 million resort hotel on Shades Mountain with a golf course and swimming pool.

The 80 by 220-foot pool was said to be the largest of its kind in the South when it was constructed, able to accommodate 3,000 swimmers at a time, twice as many as its Nashville sibling. Prior to construction it was said that the pool would be filled with municipal water, "completely circulated and sterilized by the ultra violet ray method every 12 hours." Later news reports, quoting Jefferson County Health Officer J. D. Dowling, indicated that the water came from local springs, but was, "purified by filters and chlorinated at regular intervals." In any case, visitors came to associate the marked coolness of the water to its supposed mountain stream source. From the filter room, 28,000 gallons of water was pumped each hour. Lifeguards and swim instructors were available at all times

The formal opening of Cascade Plunge was on June 7, 1923. Later that month the attraction staged a week of aquatic shows featuring Lottie Mayer and her troupe of diving girls. Before the end of its first season, operation of Cascade Plunge passed to new managers. They cleared undergrowth and rubbish from the adjacent undeveloped tract and furnished it with picnic tables. By 1926 C. H. Miles was the owner and manager.

The ballroom pavilion was located at the South end of the pool. It housed bathing and dressing areas with 2,000 steel lockers for men and 1,000 private dressing rooms for women, each equipped with showers. Woolen bathings costumes were available for rent to those who did not own their own. The ladies' area featured beauty and make-up counters with hair dryers and beauticians on staff. The men's locker area included a Turkish bath. The ballroom itself, later dubbed the Cloud Room, had a separate entrance. Its 80' x 125' banqueting and dance floor was said to be second only to the Municipal Auditorium. The "rustic" decor was enhanced by large fireplaces at each end of the ballroom.

In 1924 Naylor's Seven Aces Orchestra was the season's headline attraction. In 1925 the Peek-In Orchestra played five dances a week. In 1926 the Eddie Miles Orchestra provided music, and dinners were catered by Mary Beard. Over the years numerous events ranging from formal dinner dances to call-outs and sock hops were held there. In 1929 bandleader Jack Linx brought his, "popular collegiate, rhythm-making orchestra," to the Cascade Plunge.

In 1931 Bob Weaver was manager of Cascade Plunge. He boasted of the pool's pure water which was replaced every 24 hours. The pool was open every day from 6:00 AM to 10:30 PM. Three dances a week were held in the ballroom, with music by Dunk Rendleman and His Alabamians. They headlined a St Patrick's Day dance for which it was promised that trumpeter/comedian Frank Dimke had "been busy figuring out a number of novelties for the evening."

In 1934 the swimming season began on May 19, with J. N. Seymour Jr as the new manager. He boasted that upgraded equipment allowed the pool's water to now be exchanged every 8 hours. Part of the renovation included a tiered concrete fountain on the southeast end that served as an aerator. That year limited number of season tickets were offered for sale at Parisian for $2.00 each. DeWitt Shaw's orchestra provided the accompaniment for Wednesday-Saturday night dances at the ballroom then billed as Cascade Gardens. In August the pool hosted a major Southeastern swimming meet. Harrison Cooper and His Melody Mariners took over the stage in the evenings during that event.

Admission in 1941 was 35 cents for adults and 20 cents for children. During World War II the Cascade Plunge's transit linkage allowed it to prosper where more far-flung resorts suffered due to gasoline rationing. The pool offered free admission to all servicemen and women on Labor Day 1944, the last day of the season. The ballroom, under the management of Dick Finnell, continued a second year of "swing shift" dances with Dewitt Shaw's orchestra playing on Wednesdays and Eddie Stephens' band on Saturdays.

Owner James Dickson also held concession privileges at Municipal Auditorium and Legion Field. In the early 1950s the park hosted a "Miss Cascade Plunge" beauty contest, with winners going on to compete in the "Miss Dixie Queen of the South" pageant in Daytona Beach, Florida.

A meeting hall for the Elks Lodge No. 79 was constructed across the north end of the pool.

The pool remained open through the 1970s. An Arnold Palmer Putting Course was opened in front of the pool building in May 1972. More recently it has been re-engineered as a spring-fed fishing lake and stocked with bream and catfish.

The property is currently listed for sale at $1.95 million. A group of East Lake residents began a petition asking the city of Birmingham to purchase the property for a proposed Druid Hollow Park. Instead the property was purchased by Habitat for Humanity Greater Birmingham and redeveloped as a 40-home community named Cascade Parc.