Dive into the history of Walton Street Pool and Park

The property, a bastion of Black history in Asheville, was recently designated a local historic landmark.

Asheville's Walton Street Pool in the 1950s

The Walton Street Pool in the 1950s.

Isaiah Rice Photo Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, Ramsey Library at UNC Asheville

The Walton Street Pool and Park earned a local historic landmark designation last month, making it the 50th property in the county to receive this honor.

The 4.37-acre property has a legacy as a cherished public space, meeting ground, and recreational hub for Black residents — and it also has an application pending for the National Register of Historic Places.

The park, located at 570 Walton St. in the South Side neighborhood, first opened as “Riverview Park” in 1939. In 1948, a concrete pool and bathhouse was added to the complex — upgrades which “immediately began drawing unprecedented crowds to the park,” according to a newly published historical report.

“That was THE pool and THE bathhouse for Blacks in the city,” recalls resident Lawrence Gilliam.

Walton Street Pool Circa 1951

Walton Street Pool circa 1951.

Photo courtesy of the City of Asheville

Over the decades — despite the radical changes brought about by urban renewal and the challenge of “inconsistent and insufficient” maintenance — the park remained a “constant in the neighborhood,” with residents flocking for swim lessons, sports, and other neighborhood activities.

Even after integration began in the 1950s, the park remained a hub, drawing residents from Black neighborhoods all over the city, including Stumptown, Burton Street, East End, and Shiloh.

In 2021, Asheville City Council voted to close the 83 year-old pool due to infrastructure problems and announced plans to build a new $1.8 million pool in another part of the Southside community.

The dialogue around how best to honor the complex’s history is ongoing — most recently, Asheville Parks and Recreation has allocated $500,000 to enhance the space and highlight its historical significance.

A proposed layout of Walton Street Park and Pool

A proposed set of upgrades for Walton Street Park.

Rendering via Asheville Parks and Recreation

What’s next for the landmark? On Saturday, Nov. 12, from 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m., Asheville Parks & Recreation will host a free “Flapjacks & Feedback community discussion at Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Community Center.

There’s also a second survey open through Tuesday, Nov. 15 that invites input on the historic recognition and various facility upgrades.