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Hart House: Old Pool for an Old Man

23 April 2022

My family tends towards "experience gifts" versus "thing gifts" for birthdays and special occasions, so I was thrilled when my daughter Monica gave me the gift of a swimming outing (plus board games and snacks afterwards at Snakes & Lattes) for my recent 55th birthday. She had done this for me back in 2016, when she took me to the (then recently opened) Regent Park Aquatic Centre (which has since be renamed):

From a very new pool, we went to a very old pool inside the 1919-built Hart House Fitness Centre on the University of Toronto St. George campus, a stone's throw from Queen's Park:

I had known this pool existed, but really had not looked into its history until Monica gave me the gift. Little did I know the rich history of the pool and the building itself as a cultural centerpiece and gathering site, not only for campus life, but for the city of Toronto. In some ways, the facility was ahead of its time, as smoking was banned from the start in the pool and library, but in others, most notably its men's only policy until 1972, it was very much 'of the times.' The centennial celebration site has a number of interesting links and articles, and the hallways are adorned with pictures and information plaques such as these...

... but my favorite historical fact is this:

A swimming pool featuring a flying trapeze for the popular sport of “fancy diving.”

I would be no good at "fancy diving," but I'd love to see it!

We rolled in on a grey and cloud Saturday afternoon to find only a handful of swimmers, but soon had the "fast" lane to ourselves and, by the time I finished my 3,200 yard workout (yes, it is a 25 yard pool), I had the entire pool to myself. I snapped a photo with my old iPhone5 (which serves as my pace clock inside a waterproof case) at the finish of my swim (left photo), but then came back with my newer phone to catch a better quality picture from the other end of the pool:

Swimming under the skylights, even on a bleak day, was wonderful. The lifeguards told me that their 'crowds' are often, well, not crowded, so this might be a hidden gem for swimmers (albeit a tad pricey at C$16/entry) in the busy downtown core.

This is either my second or third oldest pool (though it has clearly been upgraded over the years) I've ever swum in: I am just not sure which of Hart House or the Spaulding Pool on the Dartmouth University campus was built first in 2019.


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