Way We Were: Swimming pools of Park City’s past
Park City Museum
Swimming pools have been a popular way to cool off during hot summer days for over a century.
Although many communities enjoyed public swimming pools throughout the United States in the early 1900s, their popularity surged after World War II – although not necessarily here in Park City. In 1956, Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University) conducted a survey of swimming pools across the state, concluding that there were none to be found in Summit County.
Ten years later, that changed with the opening of the first ski resorts here in town. Beginning in 1966, the Treasure Mountain Inn offered the use of its pool to Park City kids involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholic Youth Organization, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4-H, although it remained closed to the general public.
In the summer of 1975, Park City Recreation Director Laurie Hail took advantage of not only Treasure Mountain Inn’s swimming pool, but also those at the Chateau Apres Lodge and the Silver King Hotel. Hail expanded the opportunities available to Parkite youth, offering open free swims and lessons to all Park City kids, not just those affiliated with church groups and Scouts.
Still, on the whole, the community remained frustrated with the swimming pool offerings in town. A 1978 Park Record editorial lamented the lack of public swimming facilities within a 20-mile radius of Park City. “Those of us who are not privileged property owners with private pools are forced to make other arrangements,” the author jabbed, “or go without.” Those “other arrangements” amounted to paying pricey daily fees to use the pools at the Park City Racquet Club or the Athletic Club at Prospector Square.
That same year, a group of Parkites led by Fred Thaller organized a fundraising drive to finally provide the community with an affordable, year-round access public swimming pool. Their campaign steadily gained momentum through the late 1970s and early 1980s, to the point that a city bond measure funding an outdoor public pool was added to the 1987 Park City Municipal Election ballot. Sadly, the measure was defeated 501 to 323 votes
Fortunately for present-day Parkites, Thaller and company’s dream is fully realized in the Park City Municipal Athletic and Recreation Center, which boasts not one, but two outdoor swimming pools open to the public.
To learn more about the history of swimming pools across the United States, be sure to check out the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit, Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard, currently on view at the Park City Museum!
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