The Philadelphia Curling Club was started in 1957 by Dr. Dwight Coons, a dentist in Wayne, PA and former Brigadier in the Canadian Army Dental Corps in World War II. Dr. Coons convinced several of his patients and social friends to invest their money to purchase two sets of the 42 pound granite curling stones. The origins of this group trace to an evening meeting in the winter of 1957, when these colleagues gathered to discuss the formation and organization of a curling club. Some of the early club members include Dr. Dwight Coons, Scott Johns, Paul Kistler, Charlie Brown, Al Hutchinson, Jack Wehner, Huey Diament, Dr. Al Leidy, Tom Phillips, and Jan Stabler.
For two enjoyable months that winter, the group curled on rented ice at the old Villanova Ice Rink. In February of 1957, the Philadelphia Curling Club was formally organized. In March of 1958, the club was incorporated with charter members. The hearty enthusiasm of these charter members is well documented by the fact that they curled under challenging ice conditions and constraints for six years at the old Villanova Ice Rink.
In the winter of 1961, a great snow storm collapsed the roof of the Villanova rink. The rink was empty at the time, but the curling stones were under the rubble. Club members gathered at the ruins the next day to successfully rescue the curling stones from the debris and several feet of snow. This setback motivated a small group of members to begin looking for land to build a curling club. After searching for more than two years, in 1963 the members discovered the Philadelphia Water Company was willing to sell an unused lot of land. The members raised enough funds to buy the land and began the planning process.
John Hayes, being an architect by trade, volunteered to design the building. Joe Clary served as a consultant based on his experience of building a club in Chicago. The two traveled to various clubs in the New England area seeking advice and hired The Creamery Package Company as ice machinery consultants. Scott John served as the club’s attorney and guided the club through the zoning approvals for Willistown Township.
John Donatone was hired to erect the building. He and his crew started work in November of 1964 and finished in late spring of 1965. This was an accomplishment built on substantial work and personal contributions of time, talent, and money from club members. The original structure included two sheets of ice and a small clubroom with no lockers or kitchen. The 1965 - 1966 season was the first in which the club’s curlers could display their finesse on their own ice, in their own building.
In 1971, the clubhouse was enlarged, with the addition of a kitchen, basement locker rooms, and a new entrance. All of the lighter work that went into completing and improving the building (e.g. painting, panelling, carpeting) was done by our own members.
During the summer of 1976, the base, foundation piping, and slab was completely rebuilt by the hard work of the members. It took several weeks to disconnect 5 miles of plastic pipes and wheelbarrow 70 tons of sand out of the ice shed. The new base was covered with four inches of styrofoam, two layers of plastic, and two inches of concrete before the piping was positioned. Shortly after the new ice was installed, the club invested in a water purification system to further improve ice conditions.
1981 & 2003
In the fall of 1981, the club house was enhanced by the addition of our trophy and pin case as well as the new bulletin board. In the summer of 2003, an aluminum sheet ceiling was installed to help against the humidity battle.
In the summer of 2010, a new ice surface was installed upon the one installed by our members in 1976. The 34 year old piping was beginning to fail. The new floor includes new piping, new manifolds, and a change of the original ice making equipment that had served the club very well for more than 45 years. The organization of the ice shed reconstruction and equipment replacement was completed by our members, but the labor -- given the expertise needed to install the new equipment -- was aided by electrical, mechanical, and general contractors.
2017 & 2018
In the summer of 2017, the club’s parking lots and sidewalks were rebuilt. Between the summer of 2017 and 2018, additional insulation was added to the outside of the ice shed structure to help improve ice conditions in warmer weather.
The Philadelphia Curling Club still takes pride in being a “do-it-ourselves” club. Whether it is a matter of maintaining the premises, creating and caring for the ice, or preparing the fine dinners sponsored by the Philadelphia Belles, the members do it themselves. A special thank you to John Hayes for his extensive contributions to the club’s history.