Mention Lake Jonah to anyone who has been around Cranbrook since 1999, and the response will be immediate – bittersweet. Fond memories mixed with sadness that it is not used as a swimming hole any longer. Originally referred to as the “Milles Fountain Lake,” the man-made lake is also known as Jonah Lake or Jonah Pool. Funded by George Booth as a place for community members to swim during the summer months, Lake Jonah, built in 1933, became a gathering place – for Trustees and Directors and their families, Academy of Art students and faculty, Summer Theatre and Summer Institute campers, Horizons-Upward Bound students, and hundreds of Cranbrook-Kingswood day and boarding school students, who all loved to hang out in the natural setting.
George Booth originally intended for the lake to be a water feature at the end of Academy Way, but quickly realized that people would swim in it anyway, so he turned it into a swimming pool. When the water was first turned on, a large amount of seepage was discovered so waterproofing of the pool bottom began in July 1934.
The cost of construction was just over $34,000. This included the liner, the drain, paving, and landscaping around the pool, designed by Detroit landscape architect, Edward Eichstaedt. The pools covered 54,375 square feet (or 1.248 acres) and held 3,082,830 gallons of water.
Initially overseen by the Cranbrook Central Committee (a department of the Cranbrook Foundation), Lake Jonah gradually became too expensive and too risky for Cranbrook Educational Community to maintain. Swimmers snuck onto campus at all hours and swam in the pools without lifeguard supervision. After the summer of 1999, the decision was made to close Lake Jonah for swimming and thus ended decades of summer memories.
– Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist