Seashore Of The Northeast

October 6, 2011 | by Jack McCarthy

Frolicking at Boulevard Pools in 1935

Letter from the Northeast

The busy intersection of Roosevelt Boulevard and Tyson Avenue in Mayfair will get even busier when the Wawa mini market and gas station on the northeast corner opens later this year. A humble use for what was, from the 1920s to the 1970s, one of the largest outdoor swimming and recreation centers in the nation–Boulevard Pools.

Situated on seven acres on Roosevelt Boulevard, Boulevard Pools opened on May 28, 1928. It included two acres of swimming pools, a ballroom, and a locker room to accommodate 6,000. Surrounding the pools were grandstands where spectators could enjoy water shows. There was sand, picnic tables, and trees. The sandy area was used as an ice skating rink in the winter.

Newspapers dubbed Boulevard Pools the “Northeast’s seashore.” Most of Northeast Philadelphia was still undeveloped at this time, however, and the venue’s clientele came primarily from the more densely populated areas of Frankford, Kensington, and neighborhoods to the south. Admission was twenty-five cents for adults and ten cents for children.

Bathing Beauties at Boulevard Pools

In 1930, over 50,000 visitors traveled up the Boulevard to “the Pools” to escape the summer heat of the city streets. Lifeguards routinely provided the entertainment for the water shows. Toward the end of the 1930 season the owners tried to boost attendance by staging a wrestling match with an alligator. One of the lifeguards agreed to wrestle the alligator, whose mouth was to be tied shut. During the match, the rope slipped and the alligator bit the lifeguard. His brother jumped in the water to help, whereupon the alligator turned and bit the brother’s hand. The audience of some 1,500 was horrified by the blood. The man’s arm had to be amputated. Attendance was never again the same.

In the 1940s and 1950s Boulevard Pools became a swim club charging annual fees. The ballroom was used for wedding receptions and weekly dances. At the end of the 1976 summer season, citing rising maintenance fees, owner Harry Blatstein, father of developer Bart Blatstein, closed the place down. The complex was demolished in April 1978. The ice rink was saved and converted to a rollerskating rink with an adjoining family entertainment area. The land eventually became homes, a strip of stores, a K Mart, a car dealership, and the roller rink.


About the Author

Jack McCarthy Jack McCarthy is a certified archivist and longtime Philadelphia area archival/historical consultant. He is currently directing a project for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania focusing on the archival collections of the Philadelphia region’s many small historical institutions. He recently concluded work as consulting archivist and researcher for the audio documentary Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio and as consulting archivist for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2012-2013 Leopold Stokowski centennial celebration. Jack has a master’s degree in music history from West Chester University and is particularly interested in the history of Philadelphia music. He is also involved in Northeast Philadelphia history. He is Co-founder of the Northeast Philadelphia History Network and serves as Director of the Northeast Philadelphia Hall of Fame.


  1. Kozak Joe says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. I moved to Princeton Ave at five years of age in 1955 and consider myself very fortunate to grow up in Mayfair

    1. tom rice says:

      My ex-father in law, Charles McErlanel, Mac, was co-owner with Harry Blatstein and I remember going to the dances in the late 60,s. Mac retired after Ford bought the land on the Blvd and opened a Mercury dealership. Do not know if it is still there.
      lots of good stories and memories. Going to Cinelli’s, over in Cherry Hill for dinner

      1. Stan Marks says:

        Mercury dealership closed years ago. There is a large WaWa on the corner of Tyson & the Blvd.

      2. Tom Connelly says:

        I knew your father-in-law, but never chatted with him. I worked directly for Harry. I worked all areas of the pools but especially the Snack Bar with the 15 cent hamburgers.
        Harry treated us very well.

  2. Rocky Thomas says:

    As a teen growing up in frankford during the seventie, we regularly took the bus up the boulevard to Princton ave on saturday nights to dance at the Tunnel….. what a great time….

    1. Kelly Shaw says:

      Yes, The Tunnel. It WAS a great time! My friends and I came down from Fox Chase. It was around ’74/’75. 💖

      1. Jim Mooney says:

        Met my wife ther in 1958, married in 1960 she passed in 2007. Meeting her was best day of my life

  3. John Naylor says:

    I met my wife,the love of my life there in 1958. We married in 1960 and spent 54 years together before her death. Great memories of a great place. Boulevard Ballroom.

    1. Bruce Brock says:

      This is Bruce brock was a manager there build the tunnel meet my wife Debbie there still marry 45 yrs Harry blasting was the best boss

  4. Debra Burns says:

    Does anyone know anything about the Monte del rosa dance? (not sure if the name is correct) .


    1. JoeHindelang says:


      Do you mean the MOT in Frankford, where a dance was held on Fridays I believe.

      Joan Buck would usually be there and she was so popular most males could not get a dance with her.

      Joe H.

    2. Tom Connelly says:

      The dance was at Mater Dolorosa parish hall. I played for the “mot” baseball team.

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