Campus History: San Jose Swimming Pool

The plans for the construction of the San Jose Natatorium began in 1961, when President Monsignor Dorance Foley introduced plans for a $300,000 swimming pool to the Board of Regents as part of a more significant proposal of a six-building, $1 million campus expansion.

Four years later, in 1965, construction of the pool was authorized along with a planetarium and a college union. While the cost of the union proved to be too prohibitive, the pool moved forward due to the generosity of Harry Wahlert, who gifted $500,000 to the school to enable the pool project to proceed.

Construction began in January 1966. Inclement weather and steel shortages presented multiple delays in the schedule. However, it officially opened in July of 1967. In addition to the swimming pool, the building boasted a weight room and an area to store a Zamboni for use on an ice skating rink that was planned to be build adjacent to the pool. The heated pool had been constructed at 42 x 74 ft. and 4 ½ – 6 ft. deep with a separate diving area, 12-9 ft., locker and equipment rooms, four handball courts, and other recreational areas.

Wahlert asked that the new natatorium be named after his favorite saint, St. Joseph. With St. Joseph serving as the patron saint of the College, multiple buildings boasted his name. The new pool was named San Jose to avoid confusion.

Bishop Byrne blessed the pool on September 19, 1967. Two months later, it was opened to the College and public for swim lessons and open swims. The handball courts were also popular, especially with faculty members. Overall, the new facilities made Loras a more athletically diverse school.

Content for this article was pulled from extensive research conducted by Hannah Bernhard (’18).

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2019, Loras was the second-highest ranked Catholic college in the state of Iowa according to College Consensus, the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the third consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 10th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).