The Ocean at Evansville
On Aug. 11, 1937, the Evansville Journal announced the Salt Pool had suddenly closed. Located on Buchanan Road at the base of Mount Auburn, near Pigeon Creek, the Salt Pool had been a fixture in Evansville for 45 years. Around 1886, an oil well drilled along Pigeon Creek found salt water instead of oil. In 1892, Dr. William Rahm opened a health park, known as the Salt Well Baths and Bathing Pool, on the site. The flow of water from the artesian well was used to feed a wood-sided pool along the creek. Carriages ran from the streetcar stop at Cook’s Park on West Maryland Street to deliver bathers to the pool.
In 1896, Dr. William Cluthe purchased the property. The pool reopened under the name Fritzlar Mineral Springs, in honor of his parent’s golden wedding anniversary in Fritzlar, Germany. Male and female guests could swim or partake of the healthy waters under the supervision of Dr. C.F. Cluthe. Swimming instructors were always available at the pool.
In 1900, a new pool was constructed farther up the hill. This pool was made of concrete with a basin that slopped down to four feet for children and non-swimmers. A rail at that point separated the shallow end from the eight-foot pool. What made the pool popular was salt water flowing from the 1,586-foot well at 80 gallons per minute. The water, twice as salty as seawater, remained at a constant temperature of 74 degrees.
In 1910, the Big Four Railroad began construction of a track through the property. Most of the old pool was buried and bathers now had to contend with the noise and smoke from steam locomotives. Advertising for the pool emphasized the ocean-like experience with names like “The Ocean at Evansville” and “Evansville’s Inland Surf.”
America’s entry into World War I resulted in a name change for the pool. The too-German-sounding Fritzlar’s Mineral Springs became the “Salt Pool.” Despite the opening of a salt-water pool at nearby Cook’s Park and the start of the Great Depression, the Salt Pool was still the place for pool parties and picnics. The sudden closure of the pool in 1937 was a result of the salt spring abruptly running dry.
The Salt Pool site largely was abandoned until 1963, when the Vanderburgh County Humane Society acquired the property. The remaining buildings were demolished and the pool filled to provide sites for an animal shelter and pet cemetery. Although the cemetery still remains, the Salt Pool site now is an equipment storage site.