Coney Island’s Moonlite Gardens & Sunlite Pool Under Threat

Photo credit: Coney Island

December 21, 2023 ADVOCACY UPDATE 

 

In response to the startling announcement of the closing of Coney Island and the potential demolitions of the historic Sunlite Pool and Moonlite Gardens, Cincinnati Preservation Association has the following statement:

 

As the region’s historic preservation advocacy and education organization, Cincinnati Preservation Association feels compelled to denounce the potential demolitions of the Sunlite Pool and Moonlite Gardens just shy of their 100th anniversary that was to be celebrated in 2025. We voice our concern over the disregard for the important history that these sites represent to the community, state, and nation. While the full scope of the plans has not been released, the overwhelming public concern about the potential destruction of these important sites deserves to be heard and acknowledged and plans adjusted to respect these important sites. We urge the CSO/MEMI, Anderson Township Trustees, and the City of Cincinnati to listen to their constituents and patrons. 

The Sunlite Pool is an engineering marvel. It measures 200 by 401 feet and remains the largest recirculating swimming pool in the world. This is something that should be celebrated and preserved, not paved over.  Sunlite Pool has provided generations with an affordable summer swim option when families can’t afford private swim clubs. Not only is Sunlite Pool a successful feat of engineering and an affordable summer family activity, but it is also an important site of black history. The pool was segregated until 1961 when black patrons were finally admitted after the NAACP won a case against Coney Island to integrate the pool and park. It was initiated by Marian Spencer when she wanted her Black sons to be able to enjoy the park just as their White peers. She was joined by civil rights leaders and citizens of all races for protests and court cases to allow everyone, no matter the color of their skin, to create memories at the pool. Winning this case became an important moment for social advancement in Cincinnati. 

 

 

The Sunlite Pool is within Anderson Township, which does not have any local legislation that would permit a local landmark designation of the site. It is local designation that provides protections from demolition. Even without this tool, we are hopeful that the CSO/MEMI will change course to support our history and not destroy it. 

 

 

 

Moonlite Gardens, built at the same time as Sunlite Pool, has hosted dances, weddings, and at its height some of the most famous musicians of their day. Bands that played at Moonlite in the 1930s and 1940s included Cab Calloway and his Cotton Club Orchestra, Ted Fio Rito and his Orchestra, Eddy Duchin, Guy Lombardo, Stan Kenton, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Andy Williams and Benny Goodman. Louis Armstrong`s orchestra played at Moonlite on July 7th, 1938 and Cincinnati’s own The Clooney Sisters sang there in 1949. 

 

 

Moonlite Gardens is within the City of Cincinnati boundaries. There is local designation legislation available and there are residents who have been interested in working to designate this important landmark. We hope the City of Cincinnati will acknowledge this important history and work to save this building. 



 

Cincinnati Preservation Association recognizes not every building, site or structure can be saved. However, this is not just a normal site, this is a site filled with millions of memories, is an important national engineering landmark, and is an important site of Black history. The Cincinnati region’s history deserves much better than the bulldozer’s blade. Moving forward, Cincinnati Preservation stands ready to work with community members and elected officials to prevent more loss of our collective history. 

 

As Coney Island is a large site, we encourage the CSO to be creative in their development approach. There is space to build a new music and entertainment facility while keeping the pool. This can provide a unique option for summer festivals to have a swimming pool on hot days while also enjoying bands at the festival. We encourage the Anderson Township Trustees and the City of Cincinnati to listen to their constituents and work with the CSO/MEMI to find an alternative that won’t pave over our history while providing the new facility they desire.

 

How to voice your concerns: 

We encourage concerned citizens to contact their local elected officials. Their contact information is below or can be found on the following websites. 

  • CSO/MEMI
    executive@cincinnatisymphony.org

  • The Anderson Township Trustees 
    Joshua S. Gerth – jgerth@andersontownshipoh.gov

    R. Dee Stone – dstone@andersontownshipoh.gov

    J. Lexi Lausten – llausten@andersontownshipoh.gov

    Brian M. Johnson – bjohnson@andersontownshipoh.gov

     

  • Cincinnati City Council
    All Council Members – CityCouncil@cincinnati-oh.gov
    Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney: 513-352-5205 / jan-michele.kearney@cincinnati-oh.gov
    Victoria Parks: 513-352-5210 / victoria.parks@cincinnati-oh.gov
    Jeff Cramerding: 513-352-3640 / jeff.cramerding@cincinnati-oh.gov
    Reggie Harris: 513-352-5243 / reggie.harris@cincinnati-oh.gov
    Mark Jeffreys: 513-352-3464 / mark.jeffreys@cincinnati-oh.gov
    Scotty Johnson: 513-352-4610 / scotty.johnson@cincinnati-oh.gov
    Liz Keating: 513-352-5280 / liz.keating@cincinnati-oh.gov
    Seth Walsh: 513-352-5232 / seth.walsh@cincinnati-oh.gov
    Meeka Owens: 513-352-3466 / meeka.owens@cincinnati-oh.gov

  • Cincinnati Mayor

    Mayor Aftab Pureval

    801 Plum St., Suite 150, Cincinnati, OH 45202
    513-352-3250 / mayor.aftab@cincinnati-oh.gov

Sign the Citizen-Led Petition HERE

 

Support Cincinnati Preservation
Additionally, please consider giving to Cincinnati Preservation Association so we can continue advocating for sites like Sunlite Pool and Moonlite Gardens. We aim to preserve as many of our collective historic resources as possible. 

 

Media Inquiries
Contact Lindsey Armor 513.246.2043

 

 *Photos credited to: Coney Island


 

Media Inquiries
Contact Lindsey Armor 513.246.2043

Scroll to Top