WEIRTON — The Margaret Manson Weir Memorial Pool building at Marland Heights Park is slated for demolition beginning as early as Monday.
The building, which was placed on the National Registry of Historic places more than 30 years ago, has not been used as an active water recreation site since 2005 and has been deteriorating for the last decade and a half.
The Weirton Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners, which owns and operates Marland Heights Park, has engaged in multiple projects over the years to mitigate the toll time had been taking on the facility, but the structure has finally reached the point where reasonable measures could not delay the inevitable.
“We’re very aware of the historical significance of the structure,” Park Board Executive Director Coty Shingle said. “Nobody, including myself and the Park Board, ever wants to consider such a drastic measure with an historic structure, but it’s about public safety at this point. We need to take it down before it becomes extremely unsafe.”
On multiple occasions in the early to mid 1990’s the Park Board worked with the Marland Heights Civic Association to go on membership drives to keep the pool a viable recreation outlet. As community pools waned in popularity and backyard pools began to pop up seemingly everywhere, Marland Heights Pool struggled to keep up. The Park Board noted recently that only 23 memberships were sold during the pool’s final year of operation in 2005.
In the past 17 years multiple groups had presented plans to the Park Board to revitalize the pool and reopen it as a water recreation outlet, most recently in 2014 when the Marland Heights Community Association (MHCA) partnered with the Park Board on an effort to save the pool. Hopes were high among MHCA leaders that fundraising efforts would eventually lead to reopening the pool, however, in 2018 the MHCA reported their efforts to reopen the pool had come to an end. Park Board Member Iris Himmelrick, who also served as an officer with the MHCA, noted at a recent Park Board meeting that the MHCA’s last fundraising effort for the pool didn’t even yield enough in donations to cover postage costs.
Shingle says Park Board staff is gathering all items of historical significance from the building as well as any items that are in good enough condition to be reused. He added that some of the bricks used in the original 1934 construction would be preserved for use in constructing a memorial to the pool’s history at a later time.
“The Park Board has discussed on many occasions erecting a suitable memorial to the pool’s history,” Shingle said. “Those plans are still in the development stage but we have what we feel are some great ideas.”
Shingle also said every attempt would be made to preserve the plastic lettering on the face of the pool, which is more than 30 years old. The plastic letters were chosen to replace the original bronze lettering that adorned the pool from 1934 until 1994.
The pool, which was built according to a Wesley Bintz design in 1934 was rededicated on its 60th birthday in 1994.
Members of the Park Board have stated publicly on numerous occasions that preserving Marland Heights Park as a viable recreation outlet is a priority. The shelters on the park grounds are still a popular rental venue for community and private events and the tennis courts remain well used by residents throughout the Tri-State Area. The playground at Marland Heights Park is the second-most utilized throughout the city and the park has been the start and finish location of the annual Marland Heights 5K Classic for the last 24 years.
“The park has a grand history,” Shingle said, “and we believe it has a bright future for many years to come.”
City residents seeking information about the demolition of the pool or plans for the future or the park can contact Shingle or the Park Board at the Weirton Millsop Community Center.