Crystal Lake – A History of Swimming in Winston Salem

On June 12, 1925, an article in the Winston-Salem Journal announced that “Beautiful Crystal Lake Opens Today.” It was called “a swimming resort” and was located at the home of Harry T. Davis on Reynolda Road, four miles from Winston-Salem.” The pool was described as being “two hundred feet long and sixty-five feet wide and having a concrete bottom and sides. It starts knee deep and runs to seven feet in depth. On each side is a sliding board both for adults and children, as well as the usual springboards. The water is as clear as a crystal, hence its name, Crystal Lake. The water runs in one end from six springs and empties at the other end of the pool….” Crystal lake was modern in that it had pumps and a filtration system which were cutting edge technology for the time.  

There were many private lakes/swimming pools during this time in Winston Salem. Most of the locations and details of them have been lost to time. However, Crystal lake is probably the most memorable because it lasted into the 1970s run by the family who started it. 

At first, Crystal Lake emphasized health…constantly refreshed spring water and a rule that all entering the pool must present a current health certificate ensuring they were disease free! (I really do wonder how this worked!) By the second season, though, Crystal Lake was competing to build bigger slides than their competition and offering a breathtaking diving tower with springboards at three, eight, 16 and 24 feet and a 50-foot diving platform. Talk about the “good old days” when safety was an afterthought.  

The public flocked to the new swimming resort! A delightful recreation area that would be the site of summer entertainment for nearly 50 years and two generations of Winston-Salem residents.

There’s no question that the pool’s features were absolutely dangerous by today’s standards but also very enticing and surely a lot of fun! Back then, insurance was not the same as it is today. Liability wasn’t as much of a concern, and many might say things were a lot more fun. In the case of Crystal Lake, this meant having a diving board rising 50 feet into the air. Impossibly high by today’s standards! And, by the accounts of those who were there, only the bravest of all would attempt a dive from that height. It should be noted that the 50-foot platform only lasted two years until 1927 with rumors swirling of a death having occurred but no actual proof. There was also a big waterwheel that rotated in the middle of the pool. But, who cared back then? There were few rules to follow and much enjoyment to be had! 

You could rent bathing suits at Crystal Lake! Wire baskets could also be rented to hold clothing and personal items. A large safety pin engraved with a number was given to the swimmer that corresponded to the number on the basket. You wore the pin on your bathing suit and had to show the pin to retrieve your basket. There were changing rooms available as well as a snack bar and a nearby dance floor. It seems there was something for everyone. 

If you were tired of swimming, a boating lake was located next to the swimming pool, and canoes could be rented to paddle on the lake and around an island with a gazebo. There was also a bridge to the gazebo.

There was a road that circled the pool, and there were picnic tables spread throughout the pool and lake areas. Families would bring their lunch and make a full day of it!

It was there until the 1970s, when the Davis family decided they had had their fill of running Crystal Lake. Many potential buyers were scared off when they found out how hard it was to maintain a large, concrete-lined reservoir. 

According to Davis family history, Crystal Lake was closed in 1975. The Corners Apartments, on Reynolda Road, were built in the Crystal Lake location. The boating lake, island, gazebo and bridge remain from the recreation area. Some other remnants can be seen from Crystal Lake, such as some of the stone walls along the paths. Memories of good times and special summers in Winston-Salem.


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