Rock Lake Pool was the location of an important battle in the fight to end racial segregation in West Virginia. Rock Lake Pool was extremely popular as it offered one of the Kanawha Valley’s premier recreational opportunities. At 200 feet by 400 feet, it was advertised as one of the largest pools in the eastern United States. It was a whites-only facility and the owners barred African Americans from using the pool even after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. African Americans used the new law to challenge the pool's practice of segregation the following year. After several protests, the owners ended their policy of discrimination and agreed to open the pool to all races in 1967.
Rock Lake Pool was opened in 1942 by brothers Joe, David, and Sam Wilans and operated until 1985. Built on the
remains of a rock quarry which operated on the site during the 1930s, the pool
featured rock cliffs on several sides. These walls accommodated high diving;
the pool also featured a large slide and a trapeze. With few other pools in the area, Rock Lake was very popular. It hosted as many as 4,000 people in one day.
the passing of anti-discrimination laws in the 1950s, Rock Lake Pool denied
African Americans admission into the early 1960s. The pools owners claimed
that the pool’s white patrons threatened to leave if African Americans gained
access to the pool. In 1965, local ministers Homer Davis and Paul Gilmer organized protests against the pool. Protesters stood in the ticket line, only to be told they could could not enter; they then
re-entered the line, continuing the process and clogging the gates.1 At one point pool employees sprayed protesters with water to disperse them. The protests eventually succeeded
and Sam Wilan began allowing African Americans access to Rock Lake Pool in 1967.