Words From Our Mayor

Jan 25

[ARCHIVED] Remembering Mooney’s Lake

The original item was published from January 25, 2023 3:10 PM to January 25, 2023 3:14 PM

Betty Scott Jarrett, who grew up in Norcross some years ago, enjoys posting photos of the town and her family and friends from her early years.  She recently posted a photo of her with a friend at the Mooney’s Lake amusement park, where their seventh-grade class had an end-of-year school outing, circa 1955.   

Betty Jarrett - Mooney Lake

This post elicited a number of responses from others who were in her class or are of that era, and brought forth vivid memories of their times visiting Mooney’s Lake.  I wondered – was Mooney’s Lake here in Norcross, or nearby?  If not, where was it, and is it still around? I did some research and wanted to share the results with you.   

Mooney’s Lake was an amusement park off Piedmont Road in Atlanta, near where the United States Post Office station is located today at the end of Morosco Drive.  The amusement park was opened circa 1920 by Deward Sampson Mooney and was active for some 40 years.  When it started Mooney’s Lake was in an undeveloped area of “woods”, and one had to drive a ways down a dirt road off Piedmont to get there.  (At that point Piedmont had sections that were not paved as well, according to what I have read.)

Mr. Mooney, a native of Hall County in northeast Georgia, owned and ran the water-oriented park until his death in 1940.  It featured swimming, boating, sunbathing and related activities, and Mr. Mooney actively promoted the lake as a destination each summer, when it was open daily, typically from April / May through September. It quickly became a favorite spot for outings by church groups, social clubs and lodges, school groups and families.

The photo below shows the shore and part of the lake area in the park’s early days, as found on a Pinterest site:

Mooney Lake

Mooney upgraded the attractions offered at the lake over time, typically adding improvements in the colder months when the facility was closed, having them ready for the next busy season.  For instance, an article in the spring of 1934 in the Atlanta Constitution listed several new features added for the coming summer season, including

  • Eighteen hundred tons of clean, white sand gives the entire lake a bottom that causes no discomfort to milady’s tender feet
  • 200 gallons of artesian water flowing into the lake per minute
  • A section of the lake has been deepened to 20 feet and a grand diving tower, safe and sturdy
  • The grounds are clean and lovely
  • The locker room painted
  • The road leading to Mooney’s Lake is marvelously improved

And the story even promises “sandwiches prepared by experts”.

Another attraction that was added at Mooney’s Lake by the mid-1950s was a miniature train, which let children ride on a half mile track encircling the lake.  See the advertisement in the 1955 Atlanta Constitution, as shown below.

Miniature Train - Mooney Lake

After Mr. Mooney’s death operations carried on for another 15+ years, but by the late 1950s development in that part of the city was on the upswing, and after vandals set a fire that destroyed the main pavilion building at the park in early 1957 the days of Mooney’s Lake as a rustic amusement venue were numbered.  Soon bulldozers filled the lake and cleared the land, and a shopping center named Broadview Plaza arose to take the place of Mooney’s Lake.

Broadview Plaza

Today Broadview Plaza is gone too, replaced by a newer shopping center, called Lindbergh Plaza, and much of the property that once held the lake is taken up by the intersection of I85 and Georgia 400.  

But memories of Mooney’s Lake remain, among folks from the old days in Norcross (and doubtless among many others who grew up in the area in those times.)  From the Norcross contingent Mike Camp recalls:

For me and many others, Mooney’s Lake was a place of enchantment, beyond real and like a make believe playground from Heaven! It was beyond my wildest dreams in those days where we were all beginning to expand our world and venture out beyond the boundaries of our day to day existence in a very small suburban town that is now a near Metropolis!

Billy Kelley also remembers Mooney’s Lake fondly, but had a different slant in his post:

I always thought it was a place to go meet girls and see girls in little bathing suits.

Nancy G. Johnson recalled class picnics there and other trips to Mooney’s Lake.  She recalled that her aunt dropped her and her cousins there to play while she pursued shopping in the area. The high dive and cable across the lake stood out in her memories of Mooney”s.

Judy Lay Peacock wrote about Mooney’s and its successor, Broadview Plaza:

I went to Mooney’s Lake as a child. I can vividly remember the bathhouse. There were numbered wire baskets that you left your belongings in with big safety pins that you would pin to your swimsuit that bore the matching number.  

The bath house was on a hill overlooking the swimming pool and at the bath house, there was a cable that ran across the pool. If you were brave enough, you could ride the cable and drop into the pool. I was too young and not brave, so I never did.  The pool had been dug out of the earth and was irregular as I recall and was paved with cement that had a slightly gravely feel when you walked on it.

There was a dirt road that ran from Lennox Road up to that area and a Black community in that area. Even when I was in college you could cut through the dirt road.

 And of course, when Broadview Plaza was in decline, the Great Southeast Music Hall was there. It is where I first saw Steve Martin when he opened for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. 

 That piece of land has many memories.

 Many thanks to those named above for their memories of Mooney’s Lake.