Ridgway has many fans. Shiny blogs like Daily Candy and Curbed Philly endorse it. My landlord loves it. And I once sat beside an especially loud and tattooed fellow at an East Passyunk coffee shop who went on about it with great passion. It’s actually now my home pool, though it’s not the one I visit the most. The first time I went (in 2007), it was so full of kids that if you dunked under the water you practically had to check to make sure none of them had swum above your head before you popped up again. I have heard and noticed (thanks to the clear view of the pool from the 13th Street sidewalk) that it’s much less crowded these days.
Nestled under the trees behind the many-pillared High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), Ridgway is a “detached pool,” meaning that there’s not a rec center right beside it. (Until the early 1990s, there actually was a Ridgway Rec in the basement of the building that’s now CAPA’s – and was formerly the Ridgway Library – but it was displaced by the City’s development of South Broad into the “Avenue of the Arts.” In 1997, the Department of Parks and Rec opened the Hawthorne Cultural Center at 12th and Carpenter, and it’s now the rec affiliated with Ridgway. HCC’s mandate to integrate dance, music, and visual arts into the regular athletic-recreation programming has contributed a beach-scene mural to the wall of the pool shed.) The pool’s shape (something like a rectangle with a large lima bean popping out of one corner) isn’t one designed for traditional lap swimming, and there’s a very cool sprinkler that rains down over the two-foot-deep section. The attendants may ask you to sign in as you enter, and you’re welcome to bring your stuff in with you.
You can get to the pool gate from a path that starts at the corner of Broad and Carpenter.