The Fish Pond
Albright's Sylvan Lake Has Legendary History
Occupying a central location on campus to Albright's Sylvan Lake, one of the college's most legendary spots. Now often called "the fish pond" by many students unmindful of its traditions, this small (approximately 18 feet wide) lake has a storied history.
Past records of the campus, though incomplete, indicate that a small body of water has existed at the present Sylvan Lake location for many years. Water has come from the spring under Sylvan Chapel, once a spring house and later a one-room schoolhouse, now set aside for student meditation.
Were the "lake" in existence before Schuylkill Seminary acquired the site for its campus, as is likely, it would have undoubtedly been a beer garden of an earlier day, and even before that, for the students of an Episcopal school. The campus saw both of these enterprises prior to 1902.
Sylvan Lake's earliest tradition probably dates from the next year (1903) when the students began the annual selection of a May King, an "honor" reserved for one of their ranks who had "distinguished" himself from his fellow students by his behavior. The May King, in addition to suffering abuse, was immersed in Sylvan Lake.
This custom continued in various forms through the years, and as late as 1953 it was traditional for the freshmen to "dunk" the orientation and customs chairman in the "lake" the day they were officially inducted into the student body.
Back in 1903, the present Sylvan Lake was merely an unimproved, shallow pond. The class of 1909 improved the construction of the site and it assumed its present name. Four years later, the 1913 class erected a concrete-based, sheltered drinking fountain at the southwest corner of the "lake," using water from the spring house.
Waiters from the dining hall filled their water pitchers from the fountain fro several years until the water became contaminated and its use was ended.
Among its many legends, the most popular one about the "lake" is related to the fact that Albright's catalog mentions the presence on campus of Sylvan Lake. In the days before students would have always visit a college before going there for classes, it is reputed that a man from New York State arrived, as a frosh on campus with a full-sized canoe, inquiring immediately, "Where's the lake?"
True or false, stories such as this have been passed from one generation of Albrightians to the next. Today, stocked with goldfish (thus providing a constant source of amusement for children in the northeast section of Reading) Sylvan Lake remains with all its fabled history one of Albright's most firmly-fixed traditions.
See also: Water Features on Campus