Anchorage Spa Swimming Pool
Did you ever swim at the Spa? Did your school bus you to the Spa? Do you know the history of the Spa? It's all about Anchorage's first civilian swimming pool.
What Are Your Memories of the Spa?
Here are just a few from a post about the Spa on your Anchorage Memories Facebook Group.
“Learned to swim there. Bussed over from Clark Junior High. How did we have the time to swim before we had to get back to class?”
“For two weeks, first thing in the morning a busload of us were taken to the Spa. It was great to have swimming lessons. I still really appreciate the building design with the wall of windows. But afterward, we had to get back on the bus in our damp clothes, coats and wet hair.”
“I swam there. It was only a block from my house.”
“I was on a Swim Club there in 1970”
“It was Heaven on earth! Our Youth Group used to go there and I’ve never forgotten the wonder of it all".”
“Loved swimming there.”
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The Spa’s Beginnings
Up until March of 1953, when the Spa first opened, if you wanted to swim in or around Anchorage, you had one choice… It had to be summer and you had to swim in a lake. Or with your rubber ducky in the bathtub.
Then on March 31, 1952, a man named Edwin Suddock, a wholesale grocer, and his wife Mary, made a welcome announcement - they were going to build a private, indoor swimming pool in Anchorage.
The location for the pool was at 1720 F Street between West 16th and 17th Avenues. The location was just above what would later become the Valley of the Moon Park.
The initial cost estimate was $40,000 dollars. In 2020 that would be around $400,000 dollars.
As a private pool, Spa memberships that allowed access for your immediate family were initially offered for $200 dollars, or around $2,000 dollars in 2020 money.
In less than 2 hours they sold 35 memberships. 2 months later they had sold 200.
The Original Plan
A smaller initial pool concept of a 30 by 40 foot pool was updated to 30 by 60 feet. The addition of a children’s splash pool also increased the cost of memberships.
The March 1953 Opening
Over 300 members enjoyed the new facility. The final cost came in at $95,000 dollars, or roughly $935,000 dollars in 2020 money.
Everyone loved the south-facing wall of glass.
An aquatic ballet performer named Joyce Dillman was the Spa’s first lifeguard and swimming instructor.
Mary of Anchorage Memories
As a student at Central Junior High, I remember being bussed to the Spa in late fall.
I didn’t know how to swim, so I started with a group as a beginner. Other students were in the intermediate group.
When our swimming lessons were over, everyone else had advanced to the next level. Everyone but me and one other student. We started and left as beginners who never learned to swim.
At the end of each session I remember walking out into the crisp, cold air and getting back on the bus with my long, wet, steaming hair. Ugh!
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Now back to our look at The Spa.
The Fort Richardson Field House
Interestingly, a swimming pool was also built on Fort Richardson for military personnel and their dependents about the same time as the Spa.
The West High School Pool
On June 19, 1972, a public indoor pool opened at West High School. At 42 by 75 feet it was larger than the Spa’s pool and no membership was required.
The Spa’s Last Days
There are no references to “the Spa” after 1977, but it’s not clear when the Spa closed it’s doors.
The structure around the pool was torn down in 1983.
Hal Manning, the new owner, built around the pool and called the new facility the “Country Club” or the “Club House”.
I remember driving by the Spa with my family when I was a boy. The big glass wall of windows looked very interesting to me. And the shape of the building was very different from other Anchorage buildings.
While I was at Clark Junior High, I remember when we were told that we would be bussed to the Spa, where we would receive swimming lessons and that those of us who didn’t know how to swim would learn how.
Following our lessons, we had an open house where each of us made a solo dive into the pool and swam to the far side… When it was my turn, I didn’t dive very well and ended up doing a major “belly flop” in front of a room full of parents. Ouch!
Like most of you, I have fond memories of my family driving by the Spa, then I eventually got to swim there, if only for a short time during school.
So Mary and I of Anchorage Memories hope you have enjoyed this stroll (or swim) down another great memory of days gone by in Anchorage.
How would you like to use your phone’s Voice Mail to tell everyone a very short version of your Alaska adventures when they call you?
Your callers will love it.
Like to know more?
Just Contact Us and Mike will send you the fun details.
In our June 7th edition of Anchorage Memories VIP Newsletter, we featured Anchorage Pioneer family, the Kimura’s.
“You didn’t mention Kerry Kimura. I went to grade school through high school with him and we built soap box cars as kids. He retired as the Postmaster in Anchorage.
And, when the Kimura family left Anchorage during WWII, the people of Anchorage made sure they’re property and belongings were cared for. So when they returned, everything was there for them.”
And from our subscriber’s only edition.
“Hi Mike and Mary. As a near lifelong Anchorageite, I really enjoy Anchorage Memories VIP. It triggers memories, reminiscing and even a few flash backs. I also have lots of photos to share. Many from the 1950s. Keep up the good work”
Well, we’ve all dried off from our swim in the Spa. Wet hair anyone?
Yes, it’s time to say so long until our next edition of your Anchorage Memories VIP Newsletter.
Mary and I both swam at the Spa when our schools bussed us there for swimming lessons. So the Spa is the place where both of us learned to swim. Another great Anchorage Memory.
We Have Pictures
A few members of your Anchorage Memories Facebook Group have some great, never before seen pictures of our town. Be sure to check them out on Facebook.
And remember… You can (and should) share Anchorage Memories VIP Newsletter with friends, family and people you used to know from your days in Anchorage schools.
Want to contact Mary & Mike to say hello?
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Until next time
Mike & Mary