History of our Club

The history of the Saratoga Swim Club goes back to 1937, when a pool was constructed on a flat creek behind the old Saratoga Inn. The Inn, on the site of the present Saratoga Inn Place Condominiums, was a hostelry dating back to 1912. Since the pool was on Inn property, it was available to guests.

One sideline benefit of Swimming club membership was the fact that Dorthea Johnston's Theater of the Glade was adjacent to the pool. Miss Johnston, daughter of the Inn manager, was a theatrical personage who fostered dramatic talent. Olivia De Havilland, a local girl, was launched on her career through Miss Johnston's efforts. It added to the pleasure of an afternoon swim to hear Shakespearean lines being voiced nearby as actors rehearsed,

And what did all this cost Swimming Club members? Well, a membership cost $100 and dues were $10 a year. The membership was for the family.

Willis Peck, former member of the Saratoga Swim Club, February, 2009

An application for a building permit at the Bella Vista location was filed (and permit was issued) on September 3, 1946, for the construction and improvements valued at $2000. The present club pool on Bella Vista was built in 1946.  The Club was put in before Horseshoe Drive or Bella Vista was even paved...before any of the neighboring home owners' houses were put in.

Mr. Robert C. Kirkwood, a member of the Planning Commission of the County of Santa Clara and owner of "Rancho Bella Vista" and its mansion located on Horseshoe Court, and later state Senator from the Saratoga area and State Controller, sold the 1.18 acre property to the members Club.  Mr. Kirkwood wrote a letter to the City Commission that stated "In exercising the option to acquire the pool that had been used by these Club members, it was necessary to find a new site and in '46 it was difficult to find a suitable site."   He felt that the Club would be an asset to the neighborhood and he offered to sell the Club the property it now owns. He had been a member of the Santa Clara County Planning Commission and he discussed this with all the immediate neighbors and he was careful to be sure that this was the general approach of the neighbors." The chairman of Saratoga City Council replied, "If Mr. Kirkwood took care of them [the Articles of Incorporation], we certainly trust they comply with California Law."  

Notes from transcripts for the hearings held by the Saratoga Planning Commission on September 14th and 28th, and the hearing before the City Council on November 3, 1959


"My family were members from around 1954 until around 1965 or so. I have very fond memories of my summers spent swimming and playing volleyball there.  The attached photos have been hanging around the house all these years. I recently started scanning all my photos to the computer and began wondering what happened to the club. So I googled it and was thrilled to see you are still alive and well! I’m not sure what you would do with the photos, but I’d hate to not share them!"

Chris Von Saltza, whom later swam in the Olympics is in two of the pictures.

Terry Browne, former member of the Saratoga Swim Club

Denae (Rowe) Haugen with aunt Jeanne Pitman c. 1984

Denae is the third generation member at the Saratoga Swim Club.  Her grandpa, Dave Pitman joined in the '70s and served as Board President.  He transferred his membership to his daughter, Lynne Rowe, who also served as Board President.  Lynne transferred her membership to her daughter, Denae.  Denae and Brian Haugen and family are still members of the club!  


"My older brother, Toby and later, I were both lifeguards at the Swim Club. I was a lifeguard in the summer of 1958. It definitely was the best job a young college kid could have. I taught private lessons before the pool opened at 11:00 to supplement my meager but much appreciated pay. it's good to see that the facility hasn't really visually changed that much, with the exception of the beautiful new clubhouse. My family was one of the founding member families and I remember the weekend work parties during which the members literally built the clubhouse, picnic shelter and did the landscaping, simple as it was. The ladies brought delicious food for a big picnic for the hungry workers. 

Having totaled my beautiful, hot rod car just before I started working there, I bought a beat up 1929 Chevrolet for my "commuter car." We lived probably no more than 3 miles from the Club. And fortunately we lived on a hill, because the starter in my $50 car was useless but I could kickstart it on the hill in order to get to work. And at the end of the day, there were always kids hanging around the Club until the very last minute when I locked the gate. They would happily help me push the car from the parking lot to the top of the hill leading to Horseshoe Drive, where I could kickstart it for the drive back home. 

It was it was truly a magical time in Saratoga, and probably the happiest summer of my life was in 1958 when I was a lifeguard at the Club. Long live the Saratoga Swim Club!"

Buck Winston, May 10, 2018

"You have asked me to give my best recollection of the circumstances surrounding the permit that was obtained from the Santa Clara County in 1946 for the establishment of the Saratoga Swimming Club. (snip)  I recall that prior to the time the Club was established, the property in which Horseshoe Drive is now, the principle street was subdivided by the Clayton Company; I have a distinct recollection that the matter of how the swimming club would affect the subdivision was given consideration.  In 1946, the zoning of the property on which the club is located was R-1, B-3.  The R-1 zoning permitted a golf course and a country club; we concluded that since the swimming club was a non-profit recreational club that it was in fact a country club and, therefore, a legally permitted use under the County zoning ordinance. The fact that the ordinance specifically referred to 'golf course' by name and in addition referred to 'country club' as something which obviously was intended to be different than a golf course led us to conclude that a swimming club, tennis club, and the like must have been intended to be covered by the phrase 'country clubs.'  Accordingly, the Planning Commission through the Planning Department approved the issuance of the building permit of this club as being proper and legal use of the County zoning ordinance."

-Nestor Barrett, Executive Officer of the City Planning Commission in 1946, in a letter presented before the Planning Commission of the City of Saratoga, Sept. 28, 1959

If you, or someone you know, has a memory to share about the history of Saratoga Swim Club, please contact us!