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A new book examines the history of Lakeside Swim Club in Louisville

Lakeside Swim Club as photographed from above.
Brennan Clark
Lakeside Swim Club as illustrated on a book marking it's 100th anniversary.

A new book from Brigid Kaelin, "Lakeside," traces the history of a Louisville quarry turned neighborhood pool as the pool celebrates its centennial.

How do you turn a swampy hole in the ground into a neighborhood institution? Author Brigid Kaelin talks with LPM's Bill Burton about the story of the Lakeside Swim Club in her just released book, "Lakeside."

Bill Burton: The lakeside Swim Club in Louisville Highlands neighborhood is turning 100 this year. Musician, author and Lakeside member Brigid Kaelin has written a book simply titled "Lakeside" to celebrate the century of the swim club. Brigid, take us through a little bit of the early days of Lakeside.

Brigid Kaelin: Around 1920, this limestone quarry, which had been an operating quarry that people rented and they got paving stones to build much of downtown Louisville from Lakeside, and many other quarries in Jefferson County. But they struck water, as one does when you're digging for many, many years. And the quarry just filled up. And around that time, the city of Louisville was annexing a huge part of the county land. And the farmers who had mined the quarry and run a dairy farm on the land just said it's time. Let's sell it and make a subdivision. And the interesting thing to me was that the lake, which we know now as Lakeside, this oasis, was actually kind of a detriment at that time. It was really mosquito laden and full of algae and swampy and nobody really wanted it so that the lots didn't sell as quickly as they were anticipating. And a few of the owners got together and said, What if we made this a nonprofit Co Op? And it still operates as a nonprofit cooperative to this day, which I think in my research is kind of why it's still around. And it became this group of neighbors who just took care of the property.

BB: With how Lakeside was set up originally with just homeowners immediately around the area of Lakeside being allowed to be members, it's an extremely exclusive club. How is Lakeside today, trying to move forward and be more inclusive.

BK: Louisville has his history of redlining, unfortunately, and has historically a very segregated city and Lakeside and the the current membership and the staff and the neighborhood is aware of that and trying to do what they can to correct these inequities. There's a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion committee. And that's been trying to actively make sure that people feel included, whether it's, you know, bathroom issues and stalls, or it's actively seeking members from all over the community. And it's interesting, because of course, the way Lakeside was set up is that it's a nonprofit, it's a community park, its entire purpose is for the beautification of a park in the neighborhood. And like that's how it's written from 100 years ago. And unfortunately, because of the way deed restrictions were set up in Louisville, most people who moved into the neighborhood were white, and then they sponsored their white friends because Louisville has been not really integrated, unfortunately, but that the neighbors, especially the younger folks who are moving into the neighborhood are recognizing this and trying to do what they can to actively seek out members from around the community.

BB: In preparing for this project. You read everything about Lakeside you could get your hands on. For example, you even spent a lot of time reading over Lakeside meetings minutes from the 1950s. What was it that made you want to put together this project for Lakeside?

BK: I grew up at Lakeside, super fortunate and super grateful for that privilege, for sure. And when I was about 10 years old, there was the Lakeside historian kind of self, who just kind of jumped in for that title called Jack Thompson. And he wrote a book called the lakeside story. And I was so fascinated by it, but I really wanted to see it bigger with pictures and kind of more in depth. So I sort of since I was a kid had this idea kind of floating around that one day, I would rewrite the book and tell a little deeper of the story. And Lakeside turning 100 seemed kind of the perfect opportunity to finish that project.

This transcript was edited for clarity.

News CommunityLouisville
Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.

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