Fante-Leone Public Pool

Fante-Leone Public Pool. Image provided by Seth Gaines

Montrose Street at Darien, between 8th and 9th Streets

Built circa 1905 on the site of former brick yard, the Montrose and Darien Streets pool was one of many public pools built by the City of Philadelphia to provide bathing and swimming facilities to the working classes. Public pools provided refreshment and clean water for those looking for relief from the sweltering heat of Philadelphia summers. In 1990 the pool was re-christened Fante-Leone in honor of two civic-minded local neighborhood leaders: prominent businessman Dominic Fante and plumber and community activist Anthony Leone. In 2004, Fante-Leone pool closed – victim to Department of Recreation budget cuts. The city subsequently sold the site to private developers in the midst of the neighborhood's real estate boom. The anticipated new development never materialized, and the developers put the Fante-Leone site up for auction in the spring of 2007. The lot failed to sell, and its fate remains to be seen.

As of 1934, the City of Philadelphia had built 39 public, municipal swimming pools in immigrant-dense neighborhoods like Southwark and Kensington. The Montrose and Darien pool is one of only two surviving examples of these enclosed pools. The architect of the Montrose and Darien is unknown, but the style is typical of city-built pools: brick enclosure walls, a concrete basin, and a grand entranceway that signified the structure's public status. Elaborate ornamentation frames the entrance; the carved stone bears the city motto, Philadelphia Maneto — "Let Brotherly Love Continue." In their first incarnation, the city pools were constructed with roofs, which were thought to keep out the dirt of the street. But the roofs only trapped the heat and humidity—and therefore, bacteria and mold — of the Philadelphia summer. Open-air pools, with their increased air circulation and sunlight, eventually became the hygienic standard. The Montrose Darien pool's roof was demolished by 1920.

In its first decade, the Montrose and Darien pool primarily served Italian immigrant laborers from the Ninth Street, but it was not exclusively an Italian bathhouse. The pool also provided a communal gathering space for the Russian Jewish immigrants who also lived and worked in the 9th Street Market neighborhood.

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