Bonnie Beach was Brewton’s pleasure resort in the 40s and 50s
ASHS Column for 12 28 06
I decided to go ahead with what
I have on Bonnie Beach and let
you more knowledgeable folk
help me out with the details of
its demise. This material came
from one of the Escambia
County Historical Society’s
quarterlies in the early 1990s.
If you can add to the story,
I’d appreciate you letting me
In the mid-1940s a headline
from the Brewton Standard
read: "BREWTON’S NEW
PLEASURE RESORT IS
IN OPERATION." I have
fond memories of going to
Bonnie Beach as a young’un and always wondered who started it and why.
I think many of you readers have seen the white building straddling Franklin Mill Creek across US 31 from and just north of the paper mill and wondered what it was doing there. In 1943 property west of the building and up the creek was purchased by Mr. Horace Levy, owner of the Ribbon factory then in operation. Levy immediately started making plans to build recreational facilities, providing this area with what he felt was desired, needed, and long overdue.
An l8-acre lake was created by constructing a dam on the creek and then building the white structure over the dam. Levy brought in white sand for a man-made beach and built a 350-foot long concrete wall to retain the sand. The lake and the beach seemed perfect for swimmers. He built a main building that housed lockers and a lunch counter, with a total of 136 lockers being available for rental, 68 for men and 68 for women.
The plans were for a separate café building but in the meantime, food was served from the lunch counter and consisted of sandwiches and cold drinks.
His vision was made more nearly complete by the facilities on the grounds that included chairs, sand boxes, swings, see-saws and in the lake, rafts and spring boards. Life lines in the lake eventually were installed.
The lake itself was about 150 feet wide at the locks or eastern end, with greater width near the center, then it narrowed westward with the creek. Its greatest depth was 11.6 feet and around the springboards and floats it was about nine feet.
Mr. Levy planned to clear the entire 200 acres in the tract, removing about half the trees and undergrowth. Specific plans as to the land’s use were not formulated as of 1944, but he said it was probable that some seasonal bungalows would be constructed there in the future.
The enterprise lasted several years until high bacteria levels made it unsafe for swimmers and the attraction was closed. However, in the spring of 1953 Mr. Levy allowed Mobile Presbytery to use Bonnie Beach as a conference grounds.
The dressing rooms in the main building were turned into sleeping quarters. The kitchen and dining room separated the sleeping quarters. Two separate screened rooms and open on four sides afforded ideal classrooms. The large building over the spillway was used as a recreation building. In addition to all this there were numerous trails for hiking and open fields for sports of every nature.
Through the generosity of Mr. Levy and members of the Presbyterian Church in Brewton along with the Education Committee of Mobile Presbytery, Bonnie Beach was rushed into business again, with several thousand dollars spent in repairs and equipment. 50 people could be slept and fed with comfort through the facilities on hand.
Mr. Levy was impressed with the program conducted by Mobile Presbytery and offered to lease the Bonnie Beach property to Mobile Presbytery for ten years at one dollar a year with the option of renewing for ten years. The only stipulation was that it be maintained and proper care given to all facilities. Mobile Presbytery voted to accept this offer.
They felt that it was necessary that the sleeping quarters be enlarged, making room for some forty extra campers. The equipment at Bonnie Beach was very valuable and would be expensive to replace, so the plans were to construct a house for a caretaker at the earliest possible date. This expense and other such items go along with operating a conference ground and made it necessary to call on Mobile Presbytery to request the various churches to make a special appeal to all members. The Conference committee felt it would take at least $2,500.00 to do the work that needed to be done.
I am not certain of the outcome of the lease arrangement; anyone with more information is urged to contact me to finish the "rest of the story."
The ASHS’s Annual Meeting will be held Tuesday evening, January 16, 2006 at the Leach House Museum. We’ll have a covered dish dinner and members are asked to bring a dish. Kay Ross is in charge of the arrangements so you may call her for details.
Bonita Ribbon Mills in Brewton
Bonnie Beach was named for Mr. Levy's daughter, Bonnie
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This page last modified on Wednesday, January 17, 2007