An Estate Gift to the University of Pennsylvania Creates an Opportunity for a New Pool.
Near the end of the 1950’s, a local Fort Washington resident, Mr. Kimberly, left a substantial amount of property in his estate to be sold at auction and the proceeds given to the University of Pennsylvania. John Cairo, of Fort Washington, attended the Kimberly land auction and purchased 9.5 acres of land bordering on what is now Highland Ave, the 309 expressway, and Schiavone Lane. Mr. Cairo was walking the property and ran into Harold Booth, who owned a Barn on Farm Lane and several acres of land behind it.
Mr. Booth’s land intersected with John’s newly attained property. The two talked and decided to build a commercial swimming pool. They contacted Sylvan Pools of Doylestown, who enthusiastically agreed to build their first commercial pool. Construction began in 1960.
Memorial Day 1961 – The Fort Washington Swim Club Opens for its First Summer.
John and Angela Cairo 1961-1975
John and Angela Cairo owned and operated FWSC from 1961-1975. Frank Cairo, John and Angela’s son, was a diver for ManorLu Swim Club in Oreland and Bucknell. In 1961, he graduated from Bucknell and worked for the summer at the newly-opened Fort Washington Swim Club before entering the Army in the fall. Frank’s future wife, Mary Jo, who was a Junior at Bucknell, worked in the snack bar. The first staff was organized by Ray Coleman, an Abington High School teacher/coach, who brought the first life guards from the Abington area.
1963 – The Montco Swim League Forms
In 1963, Michael “Mike” Kennedy, Don McMurray, manager of Flourtown SC, Frank Cairo, and others met and initiated the Montco Swim League. Local Clubs that existed and some that recently opened joined the new swim league. Some of the members of the league were Flourtown, Fort Washington, Mermaid Lake, Whitpain Green, Warrington, Warminster, and Twining Way. Mike and Don were the driving force behind the league, established the Board, the Officers and the rules and regulations.
Fort Washington’s Swim Team was quite successful winning the league championships several years while also dominating the League Diving competition. Divers won 13 of the first 15 championships and developed many young divers for UDHS and Pat Finnegan.
Frank and Mary Jo Cairo 1975-1985
From 1975-1984, Frank and Mary Jo Cairo operated the Fort Washington Swim Club. Frank and Mary Jo were both involved in FWSC, UDAC and UDHS Swimming and Diving. The Cairo’s two daughters, Ginny and Julie, grew up swimming and working at the Fort.
Tennis comes to the Fort in 1975
Three Tennis Courts were added in 1975, then three more in 1976 and 1977. Women’s and Men’s Inter Club Tennis teams were established by Mary Jo Cairo and the club became part of the official Tennis competition in the Philadelphia suburban area.
The Fort joins the Colonial Swim League
Fort Washington Swim & Tennis applied to join the Colonial Swim League, with Mike Kennedy and Frank Cairo representing the FWSC in the new league.
Drew Sunderlin – 1985-2017
In 1985, Drew Sunderlin became the new owner and manager of the Club. Under Drew, both the tennis and swim programs continued to grow. Drew was a very successful tennis coach, on the courts teaching from early in the morning till late at night. He also was an expert tennis racket stringer, traveling to tennis tournaments to string rackets for pro tennis players.
Drew expanded the club house with a second story, which has a game room, office space, and more space for his Strings and Things pro-shop. Drew would be stringing rackets, and at the same time keeping an eye on the pool from his big window.
During this period, the Fort Sharks youth swim team took off, with coaches Vikye Swanson and Mrs. Judy Morrissy. Vikye started coaching in 1990, and Judy joined in 1991, and together with many assistant coaches over the years they have built the Fort Sharks into this wonderfully spirited and fun summer swim team. For many Upper Dublin kids, Sharks swimming is the best part of summer where they make friendships for the rest of their lives. As Vikye says: “Once a Shark always a Shark!”
2017 – Fort becomes Community Owned
In 2017, Drew Sunderlin sold the Fort to a group of Fort families organized as the Fort Investors Group LLC. The Fort Washington Swim and Tennis Club is now a 501c(3) nonprofit organization. Under this new community ownership structure, the Fort continues as a family swim and tennis club for Upper Dublin and the surrounding communities.
Ginny, Jack, Olivia and Sophia Vitella are still active members at the club and swim team.