The state will spend a half-million dollars to repair the Victoria Pool at Saratoga Spa State Park, and the persistence of the Save the Victoria Pool Society is being credited with making the money come through.
The first heated pool in the United States, the Victoria Pool was constructed in 1935 and has since hosted up to 16,000 guests each summer. Work that needs to be done to the pool and its facilities includes repairs to railings, ceiling archways, the pool deck and the lion head fountains, as well as improved handicapped access to the pool.
State Sens. Kathleen Marchione and Betty Little announced the money Thursday.
“This is a historical place, much like Saratoga itself,” Little, R-Queensbury, said at a poolside news conference. “These advocates are so important because they call attention to a need, a need to keep this place in the shape it deserves to be in. I’m proud to have advocated for this pool.”
The Save the Victoria Pool Society is a grass-roots organization founded 11 years ago by two Saratoga County natives, Louise Goldstein and Andrew Jennings. Goldstein has been a longtime advocate for the pool, and remembers swimming there as a child in the 1940s.
“I get e-mails and hear stories from people who are all over the county, who count down the days to the pool opening. I think there’s something magical that happens here every year,” she said.
When the two found they both had concerns over the deteriorating condition of their beloved pool, they decided to form a society to raise funds and advocate for necessary structural repairs. The recent funding for the pool was approved as part of the 2014-15 state budget, just a portion of the $93 million allocated for the improvement of parks and historic sites across the state, said Marchione, R-Halfmoon.
Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III, whose family has worked at and swam in the Victoria Pool for years, was the connection that brought Goldstein and the state senators together.
“It all started with one tweet,” said Goldstein.
A little less than a year ago, she tweeted that the pool facilities weren’t looking so great for the coming year. Murphy responded, curious about the concerns, and from there connected her with Marchione and Little, who is also the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation.
“We’re shocked and pleased that after our conversations, we were rewarded with funds for our pool within the same fiscal year,” Jennings said.
Though parts of the historic building have deteriorated over time, the pool is still fully functional. Most of the funds will go toward repairing structural issues and beautifying the facility.
After weekend operation in June, it is set to begin full summer hours at 10 a.m. Saturday and remain open daily until Sept 1.
“We want to restore the pool to the way it was when it was originally built,” Murphy said in his closing remarks at the poolside press conference. “It’s our job to preserve it for future generations.”