© Jerry F. Couch
ACCORDING TO LOCAL LEGEND, “The Lake” in St. Paul was formed when a group of boys plugged an opening at the bottom of a large sinkhole at the northern end of Fifth Avenue. Water from adjacent springs filled the sinkhole and a good-sized pond was the result. It was the largest of several ponds in the town at that time. One was located where the St. Paul United Methodist Church now stands. Another was located on the lawn of present-day St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Filling and improved drainage eventually eliminated both these ponds.
In its early days the lake was pristine.
In St. Paul’s early days, Buchanan Street was the address of choice for the town’s merchants and professionals. The lake provided a pleasing backdrop for gracious living. It was a fine “swimming hole” in summer and suitable for ice skating in winter.
The Womans Club of St. Paul adopted the lake as one of its community improvement projects. Thanks to the ladies’ fundraising efforts, benches were purchased and placed around the lake. The surrounding area was kept clear and some shrubs and trees were planted.
After WWII, there was a building boom of sorts in St. Paul. New business buildings were constructed on Russell Street, Broad Street, and Fifth Avenue. Bowman Field was built behind the St. Paul School, and C & P Telephone constructed a building on Wise Street to house its new, modern telephone switch gear.
Several new homes were also built in St. Paul’s residential area, which was nearing capacity. As a result, some fill work was done along the lake’s banks adjacent to Buchanan Street. It’s former irregular outline became more sharply defined – almost like a dam.
In January of 1957, heavy rains caused the lake’s water level to rise above any level previously experienced since St. Paul was settled. There was concern that the Muse and Smith houses would be flooded. Fortunately, that did not happen – but it was a close call. This troubling situation would recur in the future.
TO BE CONTINUED….