Sinkhole at Sapulpa golf course unearths old city swimming pool

A small sinkhole that appeared in the parking lot of the Rock Creek Golf Course on Historic Route 66 just outside of Sapulpa has turned into a much larger project than originally anticipated.

City Project Manager Mike Russell said he was first told about the sinkhole late last week. “It was about 10 inches in diameter,” he said. “You couldn’t really see in it. It was a hole, but it went straight down.”

Russell said that when they set out to fill the hole, they hit the wall of the old city swimming pool. Russell, who is not originally from Sapulpa, didn’t even know the pool existed. At the same time, they realized what had caused the sinkhole in the first place.

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“While we were excavating, we found lumber, portions of telephone poles, an old tire rim—it wasn’t trash really, but it was somebody’s leftover materials.”

Russell said the wood materials used to fill the pool had over the years decomposed and begun to break down, creating space in the ground and causing the sinkhole.

He added that he was surprised by how well the pool had withstood the test of time buried under the dirt, rubble and asphalt. “We could’ve finished digging, resealed it, and started using the pool tomorrow,” he said. “There was not a single crack.”

The City started construction on Monday and anticipate having it fully completed by early next week, “depending on the rain.”

The History of the Municipal Swimming Pool

What appears to be a swimming class gathers at the City Pool, circa 1930s. (Sapulpa Historical Society photo)

The pool, part of the “Sapulpa City Park,” was a WPA-era project that opened in 1936. According to a Sapulpa Herald article from July of 1936, it was 50 feet wide by 150 feet long, ranging from 3 feet deep on the shallow end to 9 feet in the middle and 7 feet deep on the far end. It held 240,000 gallons of water, and took three months to build. Admission was ten cents for children 16 and under, and 20 cents for adults.

George Gleason and his wife were the caretakers of the Sapulpa City Park, including the pool. (Sapulpa Historical Society photo)

The pool closed just over 20 years later, when it was announced that it would not reopen in May of 1957. City Manager Add Ellyson said a “$15,000 piece of filtering equipment” was needed for the pool to be functional, “and there is no provision in the budget for it.” Ellyson said the state health department had condemned the pool until the changes could be made, but they never were.

There’s been speculation by residents who are old enough to remember the pool that it was closed in order to avoid integration, as happened with several public pools at the time.

In the early 1900s, a handful of pools were located in and around Sapulpa. Read more about them in this story on Sapulpa’s public pools.

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