The Fanny Chapman Memorial Pool will celebrate the 95th anniversary of its creation from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 23.
The event will begin with the singing of the national anthem by pool member and Doylestown resident Justin Guarini, who was the runner-up to Kelly Clarkson on the first season of “American Idol.” Doylestown Mayor Noni West will attend the event and give a citation to the pool and Bob Shaffer, the chairman of the board, will give a speech. Jack O’Brien, Doylestown Borough Council president, will also be in attendance.
The event will include free cupcakes and ice cream, and give attendees the opportunity to mingle after the presentation concludes. It will celebrate the long history of the pool and the enjoyment it has brought the community. “There’s a lot of passion about the pool and what it does for the community,” said Amy Parenti, a new member of the pool board. “People who go there really like it.”
William Mercer founded the pool in 1927 on a 1.5-acre piece of land next to the Doylestown Country Club that was donated by John Lear. The pool was named in honor of Mercer’s favorite aunt, Fanny Chapman, who had died in 1924 at the age of 78. Mercer’s wife, Martha, lamented that too many drownings occur in Doylestown, which encouraged her and Mercer to build the pool as place to teach the community how to swim.
Pool Manager Jim Foster discussed the educational mission of the pool: “Believe it or not our mission 95 years later is to teach the community to swim. We offer swim lessons in the morning and have a scholarship fund to help people who can’t afford to take swimming lessons. I think we’re one of the few pools that actually do that.”
Competitive swimming serves as another means through which the pool has provided education. Three Fanny Chapman swimmers competed in the 2016 Olympic trials and a swimmer was ranked 17th in the breaststroke as a high school student. In total, 760 kids take swimming lessons at all levels and 312 swimmers and divers compete on swim teams, including a diver who was a high school all-American this year. “We continue to teach the community to swim for safety reasons. But we’ve also moved beyond that to teaching excellence in competitive swimming,” explained Foster.
When asked about how the pool has managed to stay in tact for so long, Foster attributed much of the success to the original builders of the pool while also explaining how automated filtration and other renovations throughout the years have improved the pool’s quality. “The workmanship of the original pool was incredible. That concrete has to be about 18 inches thick, that floor of that pool is not moving. That pool is built solid,” said Foster.
In addition to the original 40-by-120-foot pool, the complex hosts four other pools: a diving well and an instructional pool built in 1959 from donations from Mrs. Mercer in memory of her husband, a children’s wading pool built in 1994 and an additional instructional pool built in 2004.
When the original deed of trust dissolved in 1956, the pool came under the control of Doylestown Borough. Despite this change, the pool has remained financially solvent throughout its existence. The pool operates on its own revenue and does not receive any funding from taxes, allowing it to operate with no residency requirements. It had memberships quickly sell out this year, which is partly owed to an influx of new members the pool received from the Philadelphia Sports Club in New Britain when it sold its land to developers.
As for future plans for the pool, it plans to put on a larger event in five years to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its existence. The pool continues to be engaged with competitive swimming and recently hosted an invitational swim meet with 270 swimmers from all over Bucks County.