Wesley Bintz Redux

17 Aug

Moores Park Swimming Pool (1923) in Lansing, Michigan

Since this blog began over three years ago, its purpose and content has changed a few times. First, it was primarily history and preservation focused, then it became a “Things to See and Do” kind of blog, and now it is sort of a combination of those things. And I don’t have many followers. Or any followers. Or whatever. Anyway, throughout my entire blog-writing experience, there has been one post that has attracted more visitors than all of the other posts combined, and that is my post about Wesley Bintz and his swimming pools. I assume that many of those who visit are city officials, park board members, history buffs, and the occasional friend of mine who reads a vague reference to Bintz on my Facebook or Twitter page, and then googles it to see what it’s all about (hi there!). Regardless of why you are here, I’m happy to have you!

Donnelly Pavilion, Kearsley Park, Flint, Michigan

I was introduced to Wesley Bintz as a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University. I was doing an assignment that required me to put together a Historic Structure Report, and I chose the Donnelly Pavilion at Kearsley Park, in Flint, Michigan. While doing research at the parks office, Kearsley Park director Kay Kelly introduced me to Wesley Bintz and his work. The pavilion, you see, served as the bathhouse of a 1919 swimming pool – Wesley Bintz’s first swimming pool, actually. The pool was demolished in the 1980s, but the massive concrete block bathhouse was too expensive to remove, so it was (thankfully) spared. At that point, I took Kay’s interest and research on Bintz, and ran with it. Finding and learning about Bintz pools, both demolished and extant, sort of became a hobby of mine, and over time I’ve developed a nice little list of pools, photographs, etc., that I’m quite proud of.

Right now, interest in Bintz Pools seems to be at an all-time high. Maybe it just seems that way because before I started writing about them, there weren’t really any resources online for Bintz as a whole – only individual swimming pools (Cuscaden, Johnson City, Camp-Humiston, and Moores Park seem to be the big ones that pop up on web pages and in newspaper articles). Because of this, I do play some cards close to the chest – I’ve spent a lot of free time gathering the research I have, with an emphasis on the word “free.” In the past, I’ve had one or two consultants who were being actually paid to research Bintz ask me to give them my research without compensation and, well, I just can’t. But if you are a community looking for ways to save your Bintz Pool from demolition, or interested in the general history or design of the pools, then I will help you in any way that I can and give you any information that is necessary for you to succeed in your goals.

If you are on Facebook, there is a newly created group called the Wesley Bintz Swimming Pool Network that is trying to bring communities with and advocates for Bintz Pools together. It is in its infancy, but I’m hoping that it will become a way for communities with Bintz Pools to find extra support from other communities with pools, or that used to have Bintz pools, etc.

Me and the Marland Heights Swimming Pool (1934) in Weirton, West Virginia, 2009

Speaking of which, please sign this petition to save the Marland Heights Swimming Pool (Margaret Manson Weir Memorial Swimming Pool) in Weirton, West Virginia. Built in 1934, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is in excellent condition. However, it has been closed to swimming for about 8 years, and the parks board wants to demolish it.

** Please also keep in mind that any advice, opinions, etc. stated here or elsewhere on this blog are my own and not affiliated with any entity, corporation, organization, etc. Also, because I am currently employed by a consulting firm, there are certain services that they offer, like NRHP nominations, historic resource surveys, oral presentations, etc., that I cannot/will not offer independently (I believe this includes volunteering, too, but I’m not entirely sure yet). If you are interested in hiring a consultant for any of those services, please let me know, and I can submit a proposal and budget through my employer.

Day Out With Thomas 2011

10 Sep

During our August trip home to Michigan, Lucca and I took my sister and nephew out to Day Out With Thomas at Crossroads Village. Our kids are a little too young to really enjoy everything offered at the park, but we still had a great time in the short time we were there. The photo above is Lucca and I posing with Percy. It was far too busy to have our picture taken with the T-man himself, but next year, we will definitely plan better. We also wanted to have our pictures taken with Bob the Builder or Sir Topham Hatt, but we got to the Village during their long break, and the kids were getting fussy before they came out again. Lucca and Avery liked the bubble machine, though. I think the kids will really get a kick out of the Halloween program, since it is a little more organized, cooler, and up their alley.

Italian-American Gravestones

24 Oct



Rocco Siciliano, 1885-1925   Hermitage, Pennsylvania

Rocco Siciliano, 1885-1925 Hermitage, Pennsylvania

“One distinctive aspect of the Italian American cemeteries is the ceramic photo images imbedded into memorial stones. […] One writer commented that it was good that few Italian Americans could afford such stone portraits. He stated that if ‘there was much of this, our burial grounds would become ghostly indeed.’ […] Another writer noted that the photographic portrait was ‘not merely the likeness’ of the deceased. It was ‘the very shadow of the person lying there fixed forever!’ These memorials became a staple in the cemeteries of other ethnic groups from eastern and southern Europe, no matter what their religion.” – Meg Green, Rest in Peace: A History of American Cemeteries

Vincenza Piccini headstone, Hermitage, Pennsylvania

Vincenza Piccini headstone, Hermitage, Pennsylvania

Many Italian Americans made Western Pennsylvania their home at the turn of the 20th century when the coal mines and steel mills were flourishing. I’ve explored two of these cemeteries, though I’m sure there are many others for me to discover! These are Economy Cemetery in Ambridge, PA and St. Anthony/St. Rose/Italian Cemetery in Hermitage, PA.

Left and Center: A priest and Anna Popik, both in Ambridge. Right: Anna Wesko, Hermitage.

Left and Center: A priest and Anna Popik, both in Ambridge. Right: Anna Wesko, Hermitage.

Both cemeteries not only include the Italian American grave stones with ceramic photographs, but also those of Eastern European families, such as Ukranian or Slovak. (I’m really only good with the Italian translations, so if I’m wrong about the ethnicity of those stones, let me know.) Because these two ethnic groups arrived in the States around the same time, worked the same types of jobs, and were generally treated the same by the larger American population, the two groups of immigrants often stuck together, forming Italian-Slovak societies, interchanging customs, and intermarrying.

Left and Center: A Slovak girl and Antonio Incerto, both in Hermitage. Right: Ibah Aennhko in Ambridge.

Left and Center: A Slovak girl and Antonio Incerto, both in Hermitage. Right: Ibah Aennhko in Ambridge.

Today, having a photograph mounted to a gravestone is rather common. Some people even have their image laser etched onto the marble itself (which in my opinion can look a little creepy, and I can’t imagine what it will look like if the stone begins to wear). At the turn of the century, however, ceramic grave photographs were mostly confined to the Italian and Eastern European cultures. For historians and genealogists, the photographs offer a unique opportunity to see photographs from the early 20th century and match them up with the names and ages of who they belong to.  

Two very similar gravestones in Ambridge, PA. Silvia Lepre (left) and Maria Palladini (right)

Two very similar gravestones in Ambridge, PA. Silvia Lepre (left) and Maria Palladini (right)

Most of the gravestones that have ceramic photographs belong to children or young men and women. One explanation is that parents were more likely to endure the extra expense of the ceramic photograph as a result of their grief of losing a loved one “before their time.” Another explanation might be that a large number of children and young people died during the the time period when ceramic photographs were most popular (1900-1940) due to disease or tragic event. I suppose I’ll just have to do more research on that topic.

Antonio Catanzariti (left) and Bettina Rinaldi (center) in Ambridge. Francesca Paola Perry (right) in Hermitage.

Antonio Catanzariti (left) and Bettina Rinaldi (center) in Ambridge. Francesca Paola Perry (right) in Hermitage.

One creepy part of looking at ceramic gravestone photographs is the occurance of post-mortem images. Most of the time, post-mortem images are of infants and children, so if the image of dead babies disturbs you, beware. Most of the time, the photographs are studio photographs taken by a professional photographer in a prepared setting. And most of the time, the children are photographed to look as though they are sleeping. (Mourning or Memorial Cabinet Cards were also popular in the mid to late 19th century. Search for some on Flickr to see some.) Why in the world would a parent allow their lifeless child to be photographed in such a way? I’m sure every reason is different, but one probable reason is that they were too young to have their picture taken in life.

WARNING: The following are some photos that may or may not be post mortem.

A brother and sister (left) in Ambridge. Sisters Angiolina (center) and Margretta Santelli (right) in Hermitage.

A brother and sister (left) in Ambridge. Sisters Angiolina (center) and Margretta Santelli (right) in Hermitage.

The cemetery in Patrica, Italy.

The cemetery in Patrica, Italy.

Recently, my husband and I travelled to Patrica, Frosinone, Italy. Patrica is the town where most Italian American immigrants settling in Ambridge, PA originated. My own paternal grandparents are from there. The cemetery in Patrica is very different that most cemeteries in the United States and even in other places in Italy. No one is interred in the ground. Instead, everyone is buried in the walls, and the walls are built up upon different levels of a hill. The owners of the plot do not own it outright, but instead rent or lease it for maybe 80 years… the family has the opportunity to renew their lease and bury other family members there. Sometimes, bones are moved to a smaller plot, and when the bones are completely deteriorated, they are removed and discarded in some fashion, though I’m not exactly sure how. All I know is that the oldest grave in Patrica was maybe 1908 or so.

The burial plot of the Ferrari family, Patrica, Italy

The burial plot of the Ferrari family, Patrica, Italy

The gravestones of the Patrica cemetery nearly all had ceramic photographs, although often time there were more names engraved on a stone than photographs. There is a greater occurance of photographs of elderly people, but there also was a lot of post mortem infant photographs as well that dated into the 1960s. Another thing about the Italian graves was that many of the post mortem photographs were not made to look as though they were asleep at all. In fact, some of the children in photographs had their eyes open.

Dort Mall

25 Jun

During a recent trip home to Michigan, my husband visited the super-sized Perani’s Hockey World in the Dort Mall in Flint, and I went with him to see the marvelous wonders displayed within the mall.

Dort MallLike many early malls, the Dort Mall was once a bustling shopping center with stores and even a bar downstairs. Today, it features the aforementioned gigantic hockey store owned by Bob Perani, a bargain store, dollar store, consignment store, head shop, Star Bros Coney Island, alterations shop, and sports printing shop. As the mall became painfully empty, Bob Perani began displaying things he had collected over the years. According to a 2003 Flint Journal article, Perani enjoys the thrill of the hunt – in terms of antique auctions and the like.

Curiousity ShopThe Dort Mall, or “Small Mall,” (for those of you not from the Flint area), is not a museum. The artifacts are not organized or labeled in any special way, although they are organized in an aesthetically or subconciously pleasing way. The neat thing is seeing kids come in and look at the things as though they are in a museum.

Anyway, after visiting the Dort Mall and taking the photos that I took, I read in the Flint Journal that many of the things in the Mall will be auctioned off in July. This includes the giant mechanical elephant that I view as the centerpiece of the collection. The article did not say how much would be auctioned off or why, since Perani could not be reached for comment. When he had an auction in 2003, it was because he wanted to make room for more things that he had purchased, but this time, there has been some speculation, at least amoung my family, that it may be to help the financial situation of the Flint Generals hockey organization, which Perani owns, or to procure funds to purchase Perani Arena (where the Generals play, but Perani does not own).Tegan and Little Lulu

I suppose we will just have to wait and see. If you would like to see more photos, please see the Flickr link to my other photos.

Wesley Bintz Swimming Pools

17 Jun

Moores Park Swimming Pool (1923) in Lansing, Michigan

Hi there! I’m so glad you’ve found your way to my blog about Wesley Bintz and his swimming pools. The research here was done mostly on my own time (or as part of a grad school project), and is a few years old, so please understand that information here might be out of date, especially regarding existing and in-use swimming pools. ALSO, if you are looking for information to include in an article or essay, PLEASE cite me as a source. (Tegan D’Arcangelis Baiocchi or Tegan Baiocchi – you can call me an architectural historian, historian, or historic preservationist). I have spent a lot of my free time compiling this research, and as a young history professional who happened to find a niche, it’s nice to get my name out there. Also, there aren’t a lot of other sources for this information – that’s why you find yourself at a 5+ year old WordPress blog. :)

Also, as I mentioned above, this blog and all of its contents are my own work and not affiliated with any employer, past or present. BUT if you do happen to need some cultural resources services, I might be able to point you in the right direction. :)

Also, after reading this post, be sure to check out my follow up blog here. 

Who was Wesley Bintz?
Wesley Bintz attended the University of Michigan for both his bachelors and masters degrees in engineering (1916 and 1918). Bintz worked for two and a half years in Flint’s city engineer’s department, then went to Lansing as a structural engineer. He soon was named city engineer. Bintz left the position in 1923 to specialize in the engineering of swimming pools.

What did Wesley Bintz Build?
Athletic Park - Municipal Swimming Pool, Anderson Indiana 2
The swimming pools that Wesley Bintz designed and built are unique (and patented) in that the pool is above the ground and, in most cases, the changing areas are underneath. While typical Bintz pools were ovoid in shape, some of his above-ground pools were rectangular. They also ranged in size from 25′ x 40′ (Batchelder Hotel, Old Orchard Beach, Maine) to 130′ x 240′ (Cleveland, Ohio). He patented his “Bintz Pool” design in 1926.

Wesley Bintz claimed that “A Bintz Pool is 25% to 40% cheaper to build than a sunken pool and bath house of equal size, permanence, and details.” The reason for this can be found in the fact that Bintz Pools required little excavation, since the pool was above ground. A Bintz Pool also required less land space, since the bath house and swimming area basically occupied the same area of land.

Where are They Now?
johnson city ny come on inAccording to a newspaper article, Wesley Bintz and his associates had designed 135 swimming pools. With a little help from Bintz enthusiasts in Oklahoma, I’ve tracked down 63 Bintz pools, or locations where Bintz pools were constructed. Seven of these are traditional sunken pools, but the rest are above-ground “bintz” designs.

Fun Facts about Bintz Swimming Pools
A large percentage of Bintz pools were constructed near rivers, streams, or creeks. According to a former pool manager, this may have been in order to fill or empty the pool with ease by pumping the water to and from the water source. Unfortunately, it also led to the destruction by floods of at least two pools (Wellsville & Elmira, NY) and has damaged the closed pool in Anadarko, OK.

kearsley park pavillion2The first two pools Bintz designed in Flint, Michigan have been demolished, but the bath house of one in Kearsley Park still stands and is used for park events. When the pool was demolished in the 1980s, the city decided to keep the bath house and use it as a pavilion.

The oldest surviving Wesley Bintz swimming pool is in his home town of Lansing, Michigan. Built in 1923 in Moores Park, the pool is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has undergone rehabilitation and safety additions in its 86-year lifetime.

At one time, Beaumont, Texas boasted three Wesley Bintz Swimming Pools – built in 1926, 1927, and 1938. The last Bintz pool in Beaumont, the Alice Keith Park Swimming Pool, was demolished in 2002.

Today, Boise Idaho has two Bintz Pools that are still open to the public. These pools are identical and were probably built at the same time.

More Information
If you would like more information about Wesley Bintz and his swimming pools….
If you would like an architectural analysis of a Bintz pool…
If you would like your community’s Bintz swimming pool historically designated…
contact me at tegan.baiocchi@hotmail.com

What Else?
I’m planning a road trip to Weirton, West Virginia to see about the pool there. More information to come!

Tegan D’Arcangelis Baiocchi

6 Jun

Tegan in SienaOnce upon a time, there was a very romantic and detailed description of who I thought I was in 2009 when I wrote it. Of course, things change, intentions change, priorities change, so blog posts change as well. I’m not saying that what was once written here wasn’t true, it’s just that I don’t think I need as many words to describe me as I used to. I think that is what motherhood must do to a person. Cut out the fuzz. Keep everything short, sweet, and to the point. Done.

So this is who I am.
Today. And maybe tomorrow.


My name is Tegan D’Arcangelis Baiocchi. I am 29 years old and I grew up in Flushing, Michigan. My dad owns an Italian restaurant, and my mom worked for General Motors until she retired. I have a younger sister.

I am married and we have a two-year-old daughter named Lucca Pearl. She is named after the city in Italy and my grandmothers.

I love history. I wrote my first local history essay in fifth grade.  I have a BA in Public History from Western Michigan University and an MS in Historic Preservation from Eastern Michigan University. I also love genealogy. I started researching my family tree in the seventh grade. And I am very good at it. Here is my family tree page.

I have worked a lot of different jobs, including

  • architectural historian
  • assistant program coordinator
  • Civil War diary transcriber
  • fitting room / sales support association
  • waitress / dishwasher
  • grocery store clerk
  • music store clerk
  • piano teacher

I have lived a lot of different places over the past eight years, including

  • Valley, Alabama
  • Newnan, Georgia
  • Carnegie, Pennsylvania
  • Hermitage, Pennsylvania
  • Durand, Michigan
  • Grand Blanc, Michigan
  • Flushing, Michigan
  • Kalamazoo, Michigan

That pretty much sums up the basics about me. I’m sure there are more things I should include, but this will do for now.

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