Louise Goldstein and Andrew Jennings stepped into the lobby of the Victoria Pool, with its marble fireplace and hanging chandelier, big, arched windows and wall lamps in ornate sconces.
“The floors used to shine,” sighed Goldstein. “There used to be lovely couches that people could sit on. The doors were open. The chandeliers, which are magnificent, were actually clean at one time.”
Down a hallway that opens outdoors into an arched brick walkway, they stop.
“Look,” said Goldstein, pointing up at the white ceiling, to a patch where paint has come off in strips and chunks.
A few steps away, Jennings remarks that the metal railings painted black are now rusting and will only continue to disintegrate. Around a corner, he mutters, “This is where it all sort of started,” staring down at cement steps that lead to a bright azure pool where a woman in a cloche hat floats lazily.
The day was forecast for rain and clouds, and she’s the only one in the water. For a moment, it looks like a scene from the 1930s, when the Victoria Pool and its surrounding buildings were constructed.
The cement steps Jennings spoke of are cracked in spots and beginning to crumble in others. They were a lot worse off in 2003, when Goldstein and Jennings created the Save the Victoria Pool Society and lobbied elected officials for money to renovate and restore the beloved pool facilities at the Saratoga Spa State Park. The steps had nearly disintegrated at that point and were deemed a safety hazard.
“They were falling apart and unusable,” said Jennings. “We took photos of them and used them to lobby for restoration.”
At its annual luncheon Monday, members of the Save the Victoria Pool Society met for a farewell party. It was the pool’s last day of the season. They never imagined that 10 years after forming and eight years after getting the pool restored, they would still have work that needs to be done. But they do.
Six months after the group was formed, its efforts paid off. Then-state parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro announced that $1.5 million would be used to restore the pool. Over the next few years, a good portion of that money was used to re-do electrical wiring in the pool complex. Bricks were repainted. New plumbing and pipes were put in. More than $150,000 was used on landscaping alone. The deck was completely torn up and reinstalled. The filtration system was replaced. Fixtures and walkways were restored.
It looked good. The country’s first heated pool no longer had heat, but it had its brick archways, bathhouse, golf house and a long-needed sprucing up.
“It wasn’t nearly enough,” Goldstein said Monday, stepping down onto the pool deck where the once-new stonework has crumbled in the past nine years.
“They didn’t get real cement when they redid this deck,” she continued, “so even though it was brand new 10 years ago, there are now chunks out everywhere.”
Over the winter, part of the bathhouse ceiling leading out to the pool fell, Jennings said. He wondered aloud what would have happened if it had been summer; on a nice day, the pool is usually packed to capacity.
Public safety issues aside, Goldstein and Jennings said the pool has suffered aesthetically since its 2004-05 renovation. The pricey landscaping that was put in — colorful flowerbeds, leafy green trees and shrubbery — is no longer maintained properly. The watering system for the plants broke down a few years ago.
The list of needed renovations goes on, they said. Each summer, the society meets. They take pictures and keep a blog. They write about their hopes for the pool, which they have fond memories of visiting when they were younger. They continue to lobby state parks officials, who couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
“Their response has been like, ‘What more do you want? You got $1.5 million,’ ” recalled Jennings. “They’ve even come to us and said, ‘Change the name of your organization because the pool’s been saved.’ ”