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Swimmers Find Water's Fine at Burned Pool House

September 08, 1988|DOUG SMITH | Times Staff Writer

It's been a little tough this summer for swimmers at the Highland Park pool.

The water's fine, but there's a charred hole in the roof of the 40-year-old pool house where bathers dress and shower.

The damage was caused by an arson fire that swept through the wooden building in February, gutting one wing.

The fire nearly eliminated a rare example of postwar municipal architecture, not to mention a summer of swimming in the park at Figueroa Street and Avenue 61.

But on both counts, the news turned out better than it might have.

The Fire Department, just down the street, managed to save the basic structure. After reviewing the damage, a Recreation and Parks Department task force decided that the long, low-gabled structure could be saved.

Only a few years ago, the park's recreation center, built in matching style, was demolished and replaced by a concrete gymnasium.

This time, the department decided to save the vintage architecture.

"It's one of our nicest buildings," said John Vowels, the department's aquatic director. "All of us kind of had a little bit of sympathetic heart to the original architectural integrity of the building. We liked the building."

In March, the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners requested $288,000 for the repairs.

Early in the summer, the City Council approved the request.

Then the problem was to get the pool ready for the summer.

First, asbestos-laden roof tiles had to be removed. Then the pool house had to be rearranged.

"We opened about two weeks late on a wing and a prayer and some baling wire and a lot of sweat on the part of the lifeguard staff," Vowels said. "We finally got it to where the walls are gray instead of black."

In the boys' dressing room, there are no benches. Everyone just uses the floor.

With the off-season approaching, there should be plenty of time to complete the repairs.

Until it's done, Vowels won't feel secure.

"Every time I talk to somebody about it, the price goes up," he said. "When they put out the cost analysis, if it turns out to be cheaper to start over, nothing is sacred."

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