ST. PETERSBURG — The future of the city's only pool built for African-Americans during segregation appears secure after a unanimous vote Thursday by the City Council granting it landmark status.
Jennie Hall Pool, which was built in 1954 in Wildwood Heights, now has a historic designation that makes it more difficult to close or demolish. That status could become important because Mayor Bill Foster is considering a plan to close some city pools and open a couple of large regional aquatic parks in their place. Initially, he had objected to granting Jennie Hall the historic designation, but changed his mind in September after neighborhood leaders and preservations protested.
After Thursday's vote, a group that pushed for the Jennie Hall designation exchanged hugs in the hallway.
"I'm blessed," said Lillian Baker, the president of the Wildwood Heights Neighborhood Association. "What I was struck by was that the entire council not only voted for this, but spoke up in support of it."
Each council member enthusiastically supported the proposal.
"This is a real easy vote," council member Steve Kornell said. "Jennie Hall Pool means a lot to the entire community."
Several residents who recalled segregation spoke about the importance of the pool, which was built at 2650 10th Ave. S with the help of Jennie Hall, a white retiree from the Midwest. Hall donated $25,000 so African-American residents could have a place to swim. They weren't allowed at whites-only pools.
"A lot of black history has been lost," said Kevin Johnson. "We have to preserve our history. If we don't preserve our history, we lose it."
Foster didn't speak during the presentation.
"There are just too many voters (in southern St. Petersburg)," said council member Wengay Newton. "He knew he was going to lose this one."