historic castlewood, missouri

"meet you out at the river"

Simpson House on Sontag Rd, CastlewoodSontag Road

Location. Sontag Rd headed west off New Ballwin Rd.

Memorable places include...

Castlewood Swimming Pool

[Thanks to Chuck Simpson for contributing much of the pool history.]

It was 18,000. square feet in size, in the shape of a half moon. The shallow part of the half moon shaped pool was gradually sloped toward the roped deep water area. It started out at the depth of about 8 inches and gradually sloped to the depth of about 3 feet of water, before coming to the ropes, which were hooked to iron posts at the edge of the deep water. When you entered the deep area of the pool the bottom quickly sloped downward to a depth of about 7 feet. As you approached the diving boards in the deep water, the floor continued to slope to the depth of 10 feet, especially around the high diving board in the middle of the deep water. The pool had 1 10-foot high diving board with 2 low diving boards on either side.

The water for the pool came from an artesian spring that flowed through a mineral deposit of salt. The spring was tapped, and a release valve was opened weekly to change the water in the pool. Some people described the smell of the water as it entered the pool to be like rotten eggs or sulfuric in nature.

The owners relied on the sun (& rain) to warm up the water each week. The St. Louis County Health Department tested the water and found it to be healthy and even beneficial to wounds on the skin. However, they still required the owners to add chlorine to the water for regulatory puposes.

The pool became a popular attraction to Castlewood in the 50's and 60's. During the height of racial tensions, it became a private pool, requiring season passes purchased by its members. The motive of this venture was to prevent minorities from swimming in the pool.

Status: It is buried on the property where it once existed.

Memory. "On July 14, 1954, it was the hottest day ever in St Louis -- 115 degrees in the shade. We were at our clubhouse in Castlewood. My mother was watching my son Tom, who was 2 yrs old at the time, and told us to go to the pool. She'd be OK with Tom in the playpen and a fan nearby. So, Susan, my husband Curly, father Ewald and myself flew to the pool and jumped right in. No testing." [Kathleen Price, 2009]

Memory. "Regarding the swimming pool I remember it was so COLD!!!! It took you half an hour to get used to the water and the smell Ugh!!!!! someone said it was "belcher water" what ever that was." [Barbara Holland, 2009]

Memory. "The high dive was 10 feet high, and it took me a long time to learn how to dive head first off of it. When I got older, and more confident in my skills, I could do "can openers" from the high dive, which made incredible splashes in the water!

"Coming from a family of little means, I rarely had any money to spend at the pool.So, I became a good underwater swimmer and could hold my breath a long time under the water. I developed this skill because I would swim around the bottom of the pool in the deep water hunting for change that would fall out of the swimming suits of other swimmers. I found tons of change down there! I usually spent the money on fritos, sodas & ice creams sold at the bar in the building, and later on the pin ball machines in open eating/dancing area of the building, where the juke box was located.

"The owners had installed a sound system which played the songs from the juke box on exterior speakers, which could be heard all the way to my house a half a mile away. I remember a pinball machine called "Slick Chick" that I loved toplay, because if you scored enough points the special red lights would light up, and you had the chance to win free games, lots of them. When you shot the ball down a certain hole, the machine would rack up a bunch of free games. It was like you hit the jackpot! I loved it!

"I remember the brown painted wooden floors in the building and the round bar in the front room at the entrance of the building, where you could buy sodas, chips, snacks, and other items.The bar area had wood paneling on the walls, giving it a dark cool effect, with a screen door on the front entrance to the building. The eating/dancing area in the next room had wooden booths with screened windows located against the walls of the round room. People could come in from the sun, buy food from the bar and eat it at the booths in this room. The juke box was always playing, giving it a cheery atmosphere for the patrons.

"Outside you could hear the chatter of everyone having a blast in the pool, while the sun worshippers basked in the sun on the sidewalk areas extending from the arched shape of the pool. The pool had a lot of property, including a long grass covered parking area west of the building which had a white wooden fence. On the south side of the fence was some picnic areas, a combination tennis court/ basketball court paved in asphalt. Further west was a large back stop and baseball field. The southern edge of the property was defined by the creek which ran through the property, going behind the swimming pool. The drains and overflows from the pool emptied into the creek as well via long metal pipes, which could be seen sticking out halfway over the creek, as the water slowly poured out of them.

"One of the earliest tunes I remember being played alot at Castlewood Swimming Pool was Nat King Cole's "Hazy,Lazy,Crazy Days of Summer". Some regular patron of the pool must have loved that song, because I heard it played a million times. To this day I can put on that song and vivid memories of Castlewood Pool will begin to appear." [Chuck Simpson, 2009]

Volunteer fire department



"Did  you know that Castlewood had a local  jailhouse, across from the pool? Whenever people would get unruly or drunk, they would be locked up there overnite. It had bars on all the windows and the door." [Chuck Simpson, 2009]

Sontag Road

Memory. "To give you an idea where I grew up... if you continued walking up the road where Castlewood Pool was (Sontag Road), you would have to walk about a half mile before coming to a cluster of clubhouses (14) at the end of the road. My father bought one of those clubhouses [a tiny house with a sun porch, 2 bedrooms, living room, in-door bathroom, and a kitchen & utlility room on the back]. My parents raised 7 children in that house! Behind our neighborhood was the 80 acre Sontag farm. Our neighborhood began with a few "weekender" families, which included 1 bachelor, and 3 sets of couples. The remaining homes were bought up by families who lived there all year round. I'll have to tell you about Mr Simpkins, the bachelor next door, sometime. We also had Walter Vespy, the character of the neighborhood, who told my Dad about our house.I have tons of Walter Vespy stories from which to choose.

"Up the road from the pool was the Holland property, 12 acres in size, which had a  house built from the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. Unfortunately, like many other structures in Castlewood, it burnt down." [Chuck Simpson]

1950s and after. "The homeowners on Sontag road complained about swimming pool traffic stirring up dust on the unpaved road. To accomodate the homeowners, the pool owners had waste oil sprayed on the road past the pool entrance to help keep down the dust. I'm sure the parents of the children who walked home from school on Sontag road didn't appreciate the oil stains on the bottom of their children's shoes. This continued for years throughout the pool's existance as a business. However, in the early 70's a waste hauler named Russell Bliss was hired to spray the road with waste oil. The oil he used happened to contain dioxin, which was eventually discovered. The Superfund was utilized in cleaning up the contamination, however Russell Bliss was never convicted of any wrongdoing for this incident or others in the area." [Chuck Simpson]

Photo: Simpson residence, on Waterman, at the end of Sontag Rd, Castlewood, MO. Contributed by Chuck Simpson.

"When [my parents] moved into the house in  June, 1951, it
had the brown clapboard siding, like all the other  houses in Castlewood. My guess is that Dad put  white asbestos siding on it in 1954 and took a picture of it. The house only had an outhouse in the back yard. Dad had the oldest kids crawl under the house with little hand shovels and coffee cans to dig out the dirt enough, so he could crawl under the house and put in the plumbing for a toilet... It also had a pot belly stove & chimney in the  small living room, which Dad removed and put a furnace in the utility room at the back of the house. My parents raised 7 kids in this 2 bedroom [house], with
a sun porch, home. At certain stages  some of us had to sleep on the couch in the living room."