The Margaret Mason Weir Memorial Pool, located in the Marland Heights section of Weirton, WV, is a reminder of Weirton Steel’s boom years during which it was constructed. The Art Deco swimming pool and surrounding Marland Heights Park have been the center of Weirton’s recreational activities since their dedication in July of 1934. The history of the park and pool is intertwined with that of the city of Weirton and its leading manufacturer, Weirton Steel.
The city of Weirton was incorporated in 1947, combining the areas known as Holliday’s Cove – home to the area’s earliest settlers, Marland Heights and Weirton Heights – both located on bluffs above the downtown area, and Weirton – the area immediately surrounding Weirton Steel. Some forty years prior, the area was mostly apple orchards and farms. In 1909, Ernest T. Weir, president of Phillips Sheet and Tin Plate Company of Clarksburg, WV, purchased 105 acres of land from Cyrus Ferguson to expand his business. By the end of 1909, Weir’s company was operating ten mills and by 1918, the Phillips Sheet and Tin Company changed its name to Weirton Steel Company. Weirton Steel and the surrounding areas continued to prosper for the better part of 60 years. At one time, the company employed over 12,000 people, becoming the largest private employer in West Virginia, and was the 5th largest steel producer in the country.
The areas surrounding downtown Weirton, such as Marland Heights, were home to the employees of Weirton Steel. And by providing for the city, Weirton Steel was providing for their employees. During the 1930’s, many community oriented projects were undertaken by Weirton Steel, one such project was the Marland Heights Park and Margaret Manson Weir Memorial Pool. The park and pool were developed using funds left by David Mason Weir, brother of Ernest Weir and vice-president of Weirton Steel Company. In his will, he stipulated that funds from his estate be used to develop a public space honoring his mother, Margaret M. Weir.
The Art Deco swimming pool was constructed by Weirton Steel Employees including laid-off workers and was under the ownership of Weirton Steel until 1984 when ownership was transferred to the Board of Parks and Recreational Commissioners. Both the park and pool served as the center of Weirton’s recreational activities until the pool closed in 2005. As stated in its National Register Nomination, most of the original elements still exist to this day. The original wire baskets used for storing belongings, wooden dressing benches and a wooden check-in counter.
The impact of the Margaret Mason Memorial Pool and Marland Heights Park is evident within the community; both are mainstays of shared memory. One long-time resident of Marland Heights, Dolores Ginier, was recently interviewed regarding the community pool. Mrs. Ginier was born shortly after the park and pool were dedicated and grew up within walking distance. She has a unique perspective on the situation, having seen the growth of Weirton and the Marland Heights area. She began going to the pool at a young age and took her children there as well. When asked what she remembers most about the pool, Mrs. Ginier answered, “We lived there in the summer. From 4th grade on, we spent every day there. We would ride our bikes two times a day to the pool.” She also remembers her favorite aspects of the pool, how cold the water was as well as the diving boards. [Originally, the pool had three diving boards, including a high dive. In 1990, the high dive was deemed unsafe and removed due to the depth of the deep end.] Mrs. Ginier says her and her friends would lay out a lot as they got older, their goal being to “get tan, as dark as we could get. We didn’t know any better in those days, how bad that was for you.” Some activities that were popular in the 1940’s and 1950’s were ping pong, which was played in a shelter on park grounds, as well as shuffle board. She also remembers playing tennis and watching others play basketball. Mrs. Ginier talked about some of her earliest memories involving the playground. “The playground used to be in back of the pool, there were children’s swings with wooden seats and possibly a slide. There wasn’t any climbing equipment like now” [today the playground is to the right of the pool and does consist mainly of climbing equipment]. “The maintenance and care [of the park] also stand out. There was a spit-polished shine. No gravel was out of place and the shrubbery was perfectly manicured. I believe Weirton Steel took care of the maintenance.” When asked how she feels about efforts to reopen the pool, Mrs. Ginier replied, “I fully support the efforts currently being made. I wish them well.”
Currently, efforts are being made by the Marland Heights Community Association and the Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation to begin the necessary steps required to open the landmark to the public. The Margaret Manson Weir Memorial Pool is a major part of the history of Weirton and Weirton Steel. It is a unique building, retaining most of its original elements, and will be a cornerstone of the community.
Here is a historic video of the pool dedication: