Southwest Philly’s Pools

Southwest Philly’s first public pool — built at 63rd and Woodland in 1915 — has been gone a long time.

Of all City residents these days, Southwest Philadelphians have the least access to recreational facilities. In 2010, only 28.7% of Southwest Philly adults reported regular use of neighborhood rec sites (including public pools), as opposed to 41.8% citywide and 58.9% in some parts of the Northwest (the area with the most access).

Is it unrelated that nearly 57% of adults in the Southwest have high blood pressure (the highest of any neighborhood)? INTO THE POOL, PEOPLE!!

If only it was that easy. Southwest Philly also has a poverty rate of 36%. And that’s the official poverty rate ($24,250 for a family of four). How many families are living on just a little more?

In this context, Southwest’s three free swim spots could not be more essential. Rollicking Kingsessing. Family-friendly Myers. Far, far away Finnegan.

Here’s the Department of Parks and Recreation’s listing. (They include Christy at 56th and Christian — I’ll cover that along with West Philly pools.)

Here’s a map from PlanPhilly.

Source for the unattributed stats above: Philadelphia Department of Public Health Community Health Assessment 2014.

Telling a different story

Last week, a woman went to Hunting Park Pool in North Philly. The pool staff thought the swimsuit she was wearing was underwear and told her she couldn’t swim in a public pool in her underwear. When she proved to them that it was, in fact, a swimsuit (by showing them the tag), they let her in the pool, but one of the lifeguards publically ridiculed her until she left. Later in the week, the same woman went to Sacks Pool in South Philly, where a different pool staff also thought her swimsuit was underwear. They, too, told her she couldn’t swim in a public pool in her underwear, and showing them the swimsuit tag did not change their minds.

Philadelphia Magazine wrote about it. And now the story’s made international headlines.

There are many reasons why I’d love to see our pools make headlines. Here are just a few: Because there are more of them (outdoor ones at least) than in any other city in the country. Because they provide relief and recreation to hundreds of thousands of hot and sweaty human beings stuck in the city all summer. Because they employ 800 Philadelphia summer workers. Because the majority of those workers do an excellent job the majority of the time: teaching people to swim, making sure that those who can’t swim don’t drown, cleaning the pools and checking the chlorine levels and making sure the PH balance in the water is safe for swimming.

I’d love to see our pools make international headlines because Philadelphia’s parks and recreation system manages to do all of this EVEN THOUGH our city spends less on our parks per capita than 43 other of the 60 largest U.S. cities. (Philadelphia spends $61 per resident per year; Minneapolis, $214; New York, $171; New Orleans, $104.)

And I guess I just have a hard time believing that Philadelphia Magazine (they of the cover story on how hard it is to be a white person in Philadelphia, among other gems of race and class awareness) actually cares very much about the experiences of most swimmers or staff at Philadelphia’s public pools. Is it funny to them to stir up arguments between people who want to shame pool staffers for not recognizing a name-brand swimsuit, and people who want to shame a woman for her choice of swimsuit? Does lifting up the inappropriate and unacceptable actions of a knucklehead lifeguard help build consensus toward someday getting rid of our pools, or at least shrinking their numbers? Or am I totally off? Because if I am, I would love to see their pages run a piece on, say, the need for Comcast (among other entities profiting off our populace) to pay their fair share so that Philadelphia has enough money to fully fund our schools, our fire services, our parks and our pools.



Age: 44

From: Brooklyn, New York; has lived in Germantown since 2000

Work with the pools: As a Pool Maintenance Attendant since 2012

“I like to think that I’m good with kids. I’m a single father, so the same tactics I use here I use with my son at home. If I had it my way, I’d be a counselor that works with hard at-risk teens. I like working with kids that society forgot about, don’t want to work with no more. I can relate to them because I was brought up in the street. So I know how hard it can be out there sometimes.

Each kid is different. Some kids you have to explain to, because they’re not accustomed to having things explained to them. They get, “Stop,” “Don’t do this,” “Leave that alone.” A lot of kids you have to explain to them why you don’t want them to [run, or dive] so they have a better understanding of why you’re telling them not to do it. And just be patient. That’s one thing about kids, you have to be patient. You have to show them an authority figure, but you have to be gentle with them also. They’re children. They’re growing. They’re learning.”

Gorgeous pool photos

Many thanks to Patrick Midway for sharing these! The first pic is of East Poplar; the second, Northern Liberties; the third, Cruz; and the last, Hancock (all of which are between 8th and Front Streets and Master and Fairmount).

Patrick writes, “I love swimming, and I also was unaware of how many free public pools the city has to offer until last summer. I always saw people at the pool at East Poplar last summer on my commute home from work and I decided to stop one evening for a swim. The pool is used by mainly all Black people, I’m white. I was welcomed into the pool and became somewhat of a regular for the summer and it was a great experience. Whenever I ride by I make a point to give the lifeguards a shout-out.”

IMG_2580IMG_2619Photo Jun 28, 4 24 21 PMPhoto Jun 29, 2 57 52 PM



Age: 20

From: Roxborough

“This is my third year lifeguarding, but I went to camp here, so I’ve been here since I was eight or nine. I’ve known everyone since I was growing up. It’s kind of a second home.

My sister worked here. My cousin came here too; she was a counselor. I was a counselor. My two other cousins went here, so my whole family’s been here pretty much. And that’s how it is with most people. They keep their kids here for generations.”

Swim Time


The pools are opening! The pools are opening! THE POOLS ARE OPENING!

And as they do, they’ll stay open Mondays-Fridays 11am-7pm and Saturdays and Sundays 12-5pm until sometime in August. (Some caveats: At most pools, only organized groups are allowed in on weekdays from 11am-1pm, aka “camp swim.” Many pools also hold swim lessons or swim team — for which you/your child should by all means sign up — on weekdays from 4-5pm. Schedules can vary a bit from pool to pool, but in general the most consistent open times for a weekday swim are from 1-4pm — aka “free swim;” 5-6pm — aka “family swim,” when any swimmer under 18 must be accompanied by an adult; and 6-7pm — aka “adult swim,” when only those 18 and older may be at the pool. There are fewer variables on weekends, when most pools have free or family swim from 12-4pm and adult swim from 4-5pm.

Pro tip: Ignore any posted schedule that includes “girls’ days” and “boys’ days” and in fact any posted schedule printed on anything other than paper — it’s likely years out of date. Instead, ask the lifeguards and pool attendants at your pool what the schedule is. And speaking of pool staff, please keep in mind that many are new each year and that even the veterans have a lot to figure out in the first week(s) to get the pools up and running safely for all of us. Opening a pool that’s been dormant and open to the elements for months — not to mention doing it 70 times over — is no small feat. So have some patience and give folks the benefit of the doubt if everything’s not going smoothly or according to schedule!)

Here’s when each oasis is scheduled to come to life:

Today – Friday, June 20th:

  • Cruz (6th and Master Streets in North Philly)

Tomorrow – Saturday, June 21st:

  • Awbury (Ardleigh and Haines in Germantown)
  • Christy (56th and Christian Streets in West Philly)
  • Myers (58th and Kingsessing in Southwest Philly)
  • Penrose (12th and Susquehanna in North Philly)
  • Vare (26th and Morris in Gray’s Ferry)

Monday, June 23rd:

  • Fox Chase (Rockwell and Borbeck in the Northeast)
  • Heitzman (Castor and Amber in Harrowgate)
  • Hillside (Fountain and Fowler in Manayunk)
  • Kelly (next to the Please Touch Museum in Fairmount Park)
  • Lawncrest (Comly and Rising Sun in Northeast Philly)
  • Lee (44th and Haverford in West Powelton)
  • Mander (33rd and Diamond in East Park/Strawberry Mansion)
  • Northern Liberties (3rd and Fairmount)
  • Samuel (Gaul and Tioga in Port Richmond)

Tuesday, June 24th:

Wednesday, June 25th:

  • Cione (Aramingo and Huntingdon in Fishtown)
  • Cobbs Creek (63rd and Walnut in Cobbs Creek Park)
  • Cohox (Cedar and Cambria in Port Richmond)
  • Gathers (25th and Diamond in North Philly)
  • Lederer (Montgomery and Moyer in Fishtown)
  • Lonnie Young (Chelten and Ardleigh in Germantown)
  • Ridgway (13th and Carpenter)
  • Simpson (Arrott and Large in the Northeast)

Thursday, June 26th:

  • Barry (18th and Bigler in South Philly)
  • Francisville (18th and Francis, just north of Fairmount Ave.)
  • Hancock (Hancock and Master in Fishtown)
  • Kendrick (Ridge and Roxborough in Roxborough)
  • McVeigh (D and Ontario in Kensington)
  • Mitchell (Whitehall Lane and Chesterfield Road, Far Northeast)
  • Sacks (4th and Washington)

Friday, June 27th:

  • American Legion (Torresdale and Devereaux in the Northeast)
  • Amos (16th and Montgomery in North Philly)
  • Athletic (26th and Master in North Philly)
  • Belfield (20th and Olney in Ogontz)
  • Jacobs (Linden and Jackson, Far Northeast)
  • Kingsessing (49th and Kingsessing in West Philly)
  • Mill Creek (47th and Brown in West Philly)
  • Murphy (3rd and Shunk in South Philly)
  • Piccoli (Castor and Cayuga, Lower Northeast)

Monday, June 30th:

  • Baker (Lansdowne and Conestoga in Overbrook)
  • Chew (19th and Ellsworth in Point Breeze)
  • Dendy (10th and Oxford in North Philly)
  • Houseman (Summerdale and Godfrey in the Northeast)
  • Max Myers (Hellerton and Bustleton in the Northeast)
  • Scanlon (Glenwood and K in Kensington)
  • Schmidt (Howard and Ontario in North Philly)
  • Shepard (57th and Haverford in Haddington)
  • Waterloo (Cumberland and Waterloo in Kensington)

Tuesday, July 1st:

  • 12th and Cambria (North Philly)
  • 39th and Olive (just north of Fairmount Ave. in Mantua)
  • Bridesburg (Richmond and Buckius)
  • Cherashore (Olney and Wagner in Olney)
  • Ford (Snyder between 6th and 7th in South Philly)
  • Hunting Park (9th and Hunting Park in North Philly)
  • M.L. King (22nd and Cecil B. Moore in North Philly)
  • Pleasant (Boyer and Pleasant in Mount Airy)
  • Shuler (27th and Indiana in North Philly)
  • Stinger Square (32nd and Dickinson in Gray’s Ferry)
  • Tustin (59th and Columbia in Overbrook)

At some point (hopefully):

  • C.B. Moore (22nd and Sedgley in North Philly)
  • Feltonville (Wyoming between A and B)
  • Vogt (Unruh and Cottage in the Northeast)
Bulletin Board at Northern Liberties Rec Center

Rec center bulletin board I saw yesterday.