13 thoughts on “Sellwood Pool, circa 1911

  1. I think a relative of Dolly Parton may have lived in Sellwood at this time.
    Girl holding the rope to her two friends, standing in the pool on the right, “it’s too deep here, I’m going back to the shallower end.”
    The girl sitting at the pool’s edge (nearest the camera) is telling her two friends in the water that she’s going to stay out for a while.
    A mother at the far end of the pool is saying to her child, “Be careful, Bobby, you’re getting me all wet!”
    The girl looking at the camera is just moments from slipping back into the pool.

  2. “FREE BATHS IS CRY — Many Drownings Attributed to Lack of Them. Contractors Very Coy: No bids have been received for Sellwood Pool, yet bathing season at hand. Devotees clamor for accommodations” is the headline of an Oregonian article on p. 13 of the May 22, 1910 issue. This is followed by a list of 21 “bathing fatalities” – those who died in the Willamette River during the previous bathing season, which lasted less than five months. After some discussion of the worries for the future, the paper reported that bids published two months earlier for “public bath tanks” in all the large parks of the city had not received many responses. Only the one in Sellwood was to be erected before Fall.

    By August 16, the Oregon Journal reported (on p. 2) that the Sellwood Park swimming pool was ready to use. “All days except Wednesday and Thursday will be free, while on these days a fee of 25 cents will be charged for the use of the pool, bathing suits, towels and lockers. Fred Perkins has been selected as instructor and will be on hand during the open hours. Classes will be organized among adults and children and the services of the instructor offered such organized classes. … The pool is 120 feet long, 80 feet wide and two feet deep at the shallow end… eight feet at the deepest point. Bull Run water is used, and it is calculated to keep this running so that 100 gallons shall be used for each person. All towels and bathing suits are sterilized before second using. It is planned to have the pool open at stated hours, and use will be offered until 7:30 o’clock in the evening. It is also planned to designate certain days for use by males and other days for females.”

    On August 18, the Journal had an article on p. 16 titled “BOYS AND GIRLS SWIM LIKE FISH.” It reported that the pool had been completed the previous day, and “300,000 gallons of Bull Run water were turned into the pool…. 900 bathing suits with as many towels and lockers were placed at the free disposal of the bathers…. The water was a trifle cold at first, but the lads did not think of this.”

    By July 1911, a major headline on p. 13 in the Journal reads: POPULARITY OF SELLWOOD’S PUBLIC SWIMMING TANK INCREASING DAILY: On an average between 500 and 600 people patronize pool each day.” This is accompanied by three large photos of people enjoying the pool.

  3. Liz you beat me to the punch on much of the same info I found, but here a a few other items from the Oregonian on August 19, 1910 p. 10

    An amusing incident occurred when Superintendent Mische told the boys they would have to wait until the afternoon to swim. They were greatly disappointed. Seeing an opportunity to have a good joke on the contractor, Wilson Benefiel, Mr Mische told the boys it was Benefiel’s fault and to get a rope, wait until Benefiel arrived and hang him. The boys took to the idea with enthusiasm and were waiting for the man they had been told was to blame for their disappointment, but he managed to talk them out of their proposed revenge and told them he would do his best to finish the work at once.

    The curtains ringing the poolside are changing rooms, and men’s day was on Thursday, and women’s day was on Friday.

  4. Liz, amazing info. Not only was there no chlorine (just a steady flow of fresh water) but I guess no one owned a swimsuit in those days so they had to provide them.

  5. Beautiful pool and park. Great local history!
    * Local news was on scene when they celebrated the pool’s centennial year. My grandson and friends were among the children there. We have the tape somewhere. I’ll have to find it and put a copy of this with it.

  6. Globally speaking…This photo depicts a period of dramatic change in swimming attire and culture. In the early 1900’s, an Australian professional athlete and performer with an affinity for aquatics, Annette Kellerman, had developed and introduced her form fitting one-piece tank suit and began advocating for more functional and less cumbersome womens’ water apparel. Indeed, the young people in today’s photo appear to be wearing a simpler version of the “Annette Kellerman”, one of the first mainstream modern bathing suits, with fully exposed arms and legs up to mid thigh. I’d think these young ladies are beyond happy to be the first generation not needing to dress foot to forehead to bathe, not to mention being able to move and play more freely. Speaking of risqué, Kellerman went on to acting, becoming the first major actress to perform a fully nude movie scene in the 1916 film A Daughter of the Gods.

    Closer to home…Jantzen swimwear was founded in 1910 as the Portland Knitting Company, but originally produced only woolen knitted goods like sweaters and hosiery. In 1913, at the request of Portland Rowing Club members, Carl Jantzen designed a one piece garment that became the prototype for their swimsuit line. Jantzen, the brand, was born after World War I, the “Diving Girl” graced Vogue and Life magazines by 1920, advertising “the suit that changed bathing to swimming”.

  7. This picture is facing North, the trees of the Park are behind the building, the powerlines of SE 7th to the right. the pool itself goes from 1 ft depth at the far distant right to 7ft at the left-near.

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