2007 Heritage Awards
The Redlands Area Historical Society, Inc.
Fifth Avenue Swim Club
One of Redlands’ best kept secrets is the Fifth Avenue Swimming Club. The pool, located near Ford Street between Fifth Avenue and Fairview Lane is actually a century old reservoir that was built by the Redlands, Lugonia and Crafton Domestic Water Co. to water the orange groves. Later it was modified to allow swimming and sunning. At its peak the reservoir could hold approximately 1.5 million gallons of water and had a depth of 13 feet. Before the days of air conditioning many Redlands families would spend the entire day there.
In 1913 the reservoir fell into the hands of the City of Redlands as part of its $225,000 purchase of the Domestic Water Co. But, for technical reasons “Reservoir No. 2” was never connected to the water system. It wasn’t long before the Bethel family, who lived in a large house on Fifth Avenue adopted the spot as their own, inviting friends and family to swim in their “pool”.
By 1927, the neighborhood swimmers had formed an official club, drafted a constitution and named the reservoir “The Aquarium”. Around this time they added a dressing room, a spring board, and a raft made from 50-gallon drums that was a precursor to the floating dock in the pool today. A lifeguard nicknamed Seal reportedly used a telephone pole to build a high dive with platforms at seven and 15 feet.
In the 1930s club members began paying annual dues of $15 for families or $10 for individuals. The Club paid the City $1 annually for the use of the reservoir. The club’s deal with the City almost came to an end in 1954 when the City began discussing whether to reuse the reservoir for its water system. The Club negotiated for “just one more year” at $150 per year which lasted until 1959 when the City auctioned the pool facility for $3,000 to the only bidder – the Fifth Avenue Swimming Club.
Longtime members say that during the early years the reservoir was more like a lake, complete with algae, slimy walls. Later the use of the water from a well in the nearby Zanja creek improved the clarity and made it more like a pool. In 1958 the Club’s status was threatened by the County Health Department which was concerned about the unfiltered water. An Assembly Bill signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown in 1961 exempted older public pools from certain regulations as long as they are reasonably safe. Since the early 1960’s the Club switched to a well built by Horace Hinckley and later to a well built by the Redlands Country Club. Later on the Club switched to using City water. For awhile, the day before the pool was filled – usually Thursday – was doggie day when members could swim with their pets. The next day was called “freezing Friday” because the new water was always so cold.
In 1953 the Club started a tradition of celebrating the Fourth of July with races, ribbons and ice cream for the children. That later was modified to apply to children “of all ages”. The Club is only open during the summer, opening at the close of the school year.
In 1949 the Board of Directors sent out a letter to all of the Club members asking them to read the Club rules and to help enforce them. Part of the letter states,
On reading the rules you will undoubtedly react by saying at some point, “Yes, but this one is not enforced.” Quite true; we have no enforcement division in this club. Every member is expected to be his own policeman – – first over his own kin, then at large. If you see someone at the pool you know is not a member, and you learn upon inquiry is not a guest, it will help if you will explain to that person directly that we operate a private pool. A word to the wise will usually suffice. If not, please report specific names and dates promptly to the Secretary and he will take action.
As usual, night trespassers are a vexatious problem and the Board is renewing its efforts to curb this danger, and nuisance. We find the Redlands Police willing and anxious to help. However, the club is put in an embarrassing position if the police fish out members found on the premises at night without permission.
The Mary Cook Smith family have been the longest continual members since 1918. Other families which have been members include the Peter Arths, Hunter Crittendens, Jack Cummings, Ralph Davis, James Fallows, Robert Hatfields, Howard Hills, Frank and William Moores, Ben Osbuns, Robert Prendergasts, Richard Wilsons, L.E. Heims.
The Redlands Area Historical Society honors the Fifth Avenue Swimming Club for its priceless contribution to the Heritage of Redlands.