HistoryBlue Ridge Swim Club

 
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In the Beginning...

The Pool at Blue Ridge Swim Club is a historic treasure. Built in 1913 by R. Warner Wood, the Blue Ridge Pool was the centerpiece of Blue Ridge Camp, established in 1909. The camp was founded by Wood, a University of Virginia graduate with a Master’s degree in Greek and History and a firm believer in developing both mind and body. According to his 1918 brochure, Blue Ridge Camp offered “symmetrical, physical, mental, moral and social development in boys, along with plenty of healthful, natural fun.” Boys slept in tents on the property and activities included swimming, calisthenics, boxing, wrestling, baseball, football and track.

Wood and his friends chose a spot where a spring fed the stream to build the pool. He is said to have hired an engineer who had worked on the Panama Canal to design the water flow system, which brings water from the stream into a nearby settling tank, where the silt separates from the water. The same system continues to supply water to the Pool today. Photos from the era show the boys swimming and canoeing in the Pool.

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1919 through 1944

In 1919, Wood decided to sell the property, and it was purchased along with over 200 acres by Allen and Pauline White. The Whites owned and operated the Pool from 1919 to 1944. The few extant photos from those years show diving boards atop wooden scaffolding on the deep end of the Pool as well as wide open farm fields beyond the creek. A 1937 color film shows extremely clear and blue water. Bathhouses were built on the west side of the Pool’s deep end, clearly shown in several of the photos.

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1944 through 2011

In 1944, Monica Baker bought the pool and 28 acres from White and established it as a club, running it thus for several decades. She made some effort to improve the facilities, building tennis courts in the area that’s now the upper parking lot. In the early 1960’s, she sold off pieces of the land (the lots on the north side of the current driveway), and then sold the Pool with 13 acres to the club’s members in 1966.

The longest ownership period was from 1966 through 2011 when the pool's members operated as a club. The boundaries of the property changed somewhat during this time, when Dr. Charlie Hurt developed the properties on the east side of the pool and traded bottom land along the creek for better property for building. The facilities improved generally, although the volunteer members were primarily interested in maintaining the Pool and the beautiful surrounding greenery. As suburban homes were built in the watershed above the Pool, the creek feeding the Pool became more compromised, and the quality of the water suffered. Among the more important volunteer members who provided leadership for the club during these years were Jennifer Baker, Jonathan Baker, Ruth and Paul Barolsky, Lester and Mary Beaurline, Cindy Benton Groner, Polly Buxton, Opel David, Mike and Margaret Gorman, Doug Little, Jean Marshall, Eleanor May, Ruth Ellen Outlaw, Kim Taylor, Tracy and Rip Verkerke, Bim Webb, and Murray Whitehill.

2011

In 2011, Todd Barnett bought the club and moved his Field Camp there, a co-ed day camp he co-founded with Jay Fennell in Charlottesville in 2000. Barnett built the pavilion in the field and made other structural improvements. The property thus now hosts both its historic functions—club swimming and a summer camp.

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Sources

  • Blue Ridge Camp brochure
  • Albemarle County deeds

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