History of Woodland Swim Club
In the 19th century and early 20th century, natural swimming holes were very popular. The Little Sewickley Creek area was well known for having swimming holes for Sewickley Area residents to enjoy. However, during that time there was an increasing concern for public health that gave rise to the need for more sanitary swimming conditions. This led to the construction of concrete swimming pools that used a water sanitation system.
In 1920, Sewickley resident, Charles McKnight purchased land along the Little Sewickley Creek in Leet Township from Mrs. Anne Paul Nevin, the widow of the famous composer Ethelbert Nevin. Charles McKnight was the president of Carbon Steel Co. and president of Western Pennsylvania First National Bank. Charles McKnight’s reasoning for purchasing the land is unknown; however, the Sewickley area was known to have many undiscovered oil and gas reservoirs at that time, especially Leet Township. Sadly both Charles McKnight and his wife, Eliza, passed away in 1926 from separate medical issues. Charles McKnight’s son, Francis McKnight, inherited the land in Leet Township after the death of his parents.
In 1927, Francis McKnight started the construction of a concrete swimming pool on his property off of Little Sewickley Creek Road in Leet Township. The swimming pool was completed in the summer of 1928 and the Sewickley Herald at the time described the pool as a “modern version of the old swimming hole.” The concrete pool was 33 feet wide by 75 feet long and ranged from two and a half feet of water in the shallow end to eight and a half feet in the deepest portion. The 65,000 gallon pool was filled with creek water using an electric sump pump that filtered the water through sand and gravel and then through the chlorinating apparatus.
On July 7th, 1928, Francis McKnight opened the pool as the “Sewickley Swimming Club,” although some referred to it as the “McKnight Pool.” The Sewickley Swimming Club was a membership only pool, in which many of the first members were Francis McKnight’s friends. As memberships grew, so did the pool recreations and activities, such as day camps for children and charity events. In 1931, the club constructed deck tennis courts for members to enjoy, which led to the club holding an annual tennis tournament. In the late 1920’s the residents of Leet Township became upset with the high property taxes, poor road conditions, and lack of emergency services. This led to some Leet Township property owners to petition to become part of Edgeworth Borough. Eventually the border limits of Edgeworth Borough were moved to include the property that the Sewickley Swimming Club pool was on. During the late 1940’s the residents of Little Sewickley Creek Road near the stone bridge requested that their part of the road (including the pool) be changed to Woodland Road Extension.
In the early 1950’s, Francis McKnight had moved to Charlottesville, Virginia while still owning the pool. On August 25th, 1953, the pool was closed unexpectedly by the Edgeworth Board of Health as a precautionary measure after a child that had been swimming at the pool contracted polio. The Sewickley Herald reported that an additional cause for the pool to close that year was the low water levels in the creek. Francis McKnight wrote a correspondence letter to Sewickley Herald stating that he was upset with the Edgeworth Board of Health and that the pool was not closed due-to polio exposure. In that same letter, Francis McKnight stated that as far as he was concerned the pool would remain closed forever. However, in the spring of 1954, Francis McKnight placed the pool up for sale in the Sewickley Herald and in July 1954, Francis McKnight sold the pool to Paul E. Smith and Russell Keith.
Under new ownership, the Sewickley Swimming Club continued to thrive well into the 1960’s. During this time the Sewickley Swimming club formed a swim team that would go on to compete against many local swim clubs, such as The Edgeworth Club, Treehaven, and Chanticleer. In 1963, the Sewickley Swimming Club swim team was undefeated and received a trophy for the highest scoring team during that season.
In 1968, the members of Sewickley Swimming Club applied to become a nonprofit corporation named, Woodland Swimming Club. The nonprofit application was presented by Orrin Hatch, who later became a U.S. Senator in Utah. One of Orrin Hatch’s first jobs out of law school was working for Robert S. Grigsby, one of the original Woodland Swimming Club Board Members. In 1969, John C. Oliver Jr. purchased the Sewickley Swimming Club property and incorporated the Creek Land Company as the sole shareholder. The Woodland Swimming Club leased the pool from Creek Land Company until 1986 when Mr. Oliver had difficulty obtaining liability insurance for the pool and he came close to closing the pool forever. Thankfully, Mr. Oliver decided to sell the pool to the members of the Woodland Swimming Club who were able to keep the pool open through the 1986 season. Since acquiring ownership of the pool, The Woodland Swimming Club members have continued to maintain and run the pool through the years. In 2006 and 2007, the Woodland Swimming Club Board President at the time, Brian Jeffe, oversaw a renovation to the pool, which both modernized the pool and added a concrete deck.
In the spring of 2020, our 100th anniversary, Woodland Swimming Club President at the time, Rebecca Earlewine, Treasurer, Eric Carlson, volunteer Bobby Cupelli, and a handful of other volunteers renovated the grassy area within the gates to add a larger permeable sport court and bocci court.
To this day, the Woodland Swim Club members continue to make sure that it remains a place where families and friends can come together every summer to have fun and create new memories.
Primarily Compiled by Michael Marek from Sewickley Herald Archives