About the Engman Public Natatorium – now the IU South Bend Natatorium
When it opened July 3, 1922, the Engman Public Natatorium in South Bend was the largest public swimming pool in the state used by Notre Dame and many citizens of South Bend who remember it fondly as the place where they learned to swim. For African Americans the story was a different one. The “Public” Natatorium (swimming pool) denied full access to South Bend’s growing African American population based on race.
From 1922 to 1936, blacks were completely prohibited from swimming at The Natatorium. As a result of many black residents’ persistence, limited admission to the facility was granted, on a segregated basis only, from 1936 to 1950. After 28 years of exclusion and unrest, The Natatorium was fully desegregated in 1950. The pool operated on a non-exclusionary basis until it was officially closed in 1978.
The Indiana University South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center was born out of the transformation of the former Engman Public Natatorium. This unique rebirth of the public pool, which was honored in South Bend’s designation as an All-America City in 2011 and a 2014 Freedom Award presented at the Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Indiana Statehouse Celebration, now pays tribute to the civil-rights contributions of local citizens.