In 1981, the White Rock bathing beach Bath House, which sat vacant and unused for nearly thirty years, reopened as the Bath House Cultural Center. Today in former locker rooms, where patrons showered after swimming in the lake, the BHCC hosts art exhibits, plays, concerts, and a variety of similar activities. For more information, see the official Bath House web site, where you can obtain information about upcoming events.
Bath House History
In 1930, during the administration of “hot dog”Mayor J. Waddy Tate, a bathing beach, complete with sand, was established on the eastern shore of White Rock Lake. The Art Deco-style bath house seen here was built so that swimmers could have a place to change from their street clothes into their swimming suits and to shower afterward. Refreshment stands, located on the lower level, sold hamburgers, hot dogs, and soft drinks to hungry and thirsty patrons. The structure, designed by the Dallas architectural firm of Carsey and Linskie, is made largely of concrete, covered with white plaster.
A concrete “apron” or slab below the water line, several yards wide and extending out into the lake, made for a firmer footing than the mud and the silt of the lakeshore. On the day the beach first opened, it was only about two-thirds covered, owing to the drought that then prevailed. At that time, the level of the lake was about three feet below the top of the spillway. The apron, along with a concrete diving platform and the light poles that illuminated the swimming area are still in place nearly fifty years later!
In an early attempt to sanitize he water, a four-cylinder motor boat criss-crossed the swimming area at night, dumping “large doses of chlorine” into it. Later, “a pipe and nozzle system which rested on the concrete slab” was used. “With both methods,” remarked a critic, “a chlorine reading taken immediately would register sufficient, otherwise the currents of the lake would take it away.” In short, “an attempt to meet sanitation requirements for White Rock Lake was the same as trying to chlorinate the entire lake waters.”
During the mid-1930s, visitors to White Rock beach could also enjoy a Sunday afternoon music concert performed by Babe Lowry and her all-girl band, the “Rhythm Sweethearts.” The “Sweethearts” also played for the nightly dances at the adjacent dance pavilion. Beach visitors could also watch fireworks bursting over the lake on the Fourth of July, thrill to motorboat races, or attend the “Miss Dallas” beauty pageant, which in 1931 was judged by none other than famed swimming champion and Tarzan movie actor Johnny Weismuller.
White Rock Beach was open each summer for twenty-three years (usually from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily, generally June through August) but just as drought led to the creation of the lake itself, so too did it spell the end of this popular recreational spot. Monday, September 1, 1952 was the last day the beach was open to the public. The following year, during a major drought, it became necessary to start using White Rock Lake as a water supply again and although the drought eventually ended, the beach was never reopened. In 1951 Mayor Tate’s widow, Blanche, wrote a poem, which was published in the Dallas Times Herald, recalling her late husband’s role in bringing the beach and bath house to White Rock Lake.
All information gathered from Scenic White Rock Lake Park – Bath House.