Swimming in the secret pool

The Forest Hill Swim Club, just a rumor to many Heights residents, has accepted members since opening in 1954. There are membership openings this summer.
Depending on where you live in the Heights, the existence of Forest Hill Swim Club may be breaking news to you. It took me 30 years to find it.

I grew up in the Fairfax neighborhood and learned to swim in the high school pool. When it was time for my children to learn to swim, we started at the city wading pools and progressed to Cumberland Pool. But the limited hours and many rules required for a large public pool didn’t suit us. I was looking for a pool where we could hang out all day, or have a picnic supper after work and relax until dark.

Then I started hearing rumors of a small swim club in Cleveland Heights. Through friends of friends I was able to track down the Forest Hill Swim Club. It is located at the corner of Monticello Boulevard and Lee Road, on a secluded lot behind Forest Hill Presbyterian Church. The club offers a variety of membership plans for families, empty nesters, singles and young couples.

The club was formed in November 1953 when six resident families—Cornell, Collinson, Harley, Schweitzer, Sotak, and Scott—hatched a plan to convert an empty half-acre plot in their development into a members-only swim club. They convinced then owner, George A. Roose, to donate the property and raised enough money to finalize the site plan and architectural drawings. They broke ground the following spring, and on August 8, 1954, the club opened.

In its original form, the club had a pool, a wading pool for toddlers and a bathhouse. Over the next several years, the club purchased adjacent properties  to include a grassy picnic area, shuffleboard, volleyball and additional parking.

The club was popular in the Forest Hill neighborhood and membership reached the maximum 300-family capacity. New families wishing to join were put on a waiting list, sometimes for up to five years.

The club is a grassroots effort. While financial and operational affairs are handled by an elected board, the members pitch in on maintenance and landscaping.

In the early 1990s I put our family’s name on the waiting list and within a year or two we were able to join. It quickly became our second home in summer. We enjoyed the swim lessons, swim team competitions, daily early bird and noon adult swims. There were many lazy days with card games and cookouts. We made friends, celebrated birthdays and invited friends and grandparents. Even as our family routines change, the pool still provides an oasis from the noise and heat of a Cleveland summer—and it’s only minutes from home.

It always feels 10 degrees cooler at the pool. There are openings this summer. Maybe you should investigate this gem and then dive in to create some memories of your own.

For membership information, call the club directly at 216-321-5067 during the summer, or send an e-mail to membership director Bob Bajko at bbajko@hsbarch.com.

Becky Austin is a Cleveland Heights resident and member of the Forest Hill Swim Club.

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Volume 3, Issue 6, Posted 6:28 PM, 04.29.2010