In 1919, Edward L. Wagner, a civil engineer, built bridges, and constructed roads, sewer systems, and drainage systems on large estates throughout the northeast.

One day, a customer asked if he could build a home swimming pool.

Wagner readily agreed, and eventually, word spread about his work, and he began building pools for others. The early pools were built for the Rockefellers, the Astors and the Vanderbilts.

“This was quite revolutionary at the time,” said John Gedney III, of E. L. Wagner Co., Inc. at 101 Noroton Avenue in Darien.

One hundred and one years and four generations later, Wagner Pools has continued to design, engineer, and build swimming pools. The business also provides installations, renovations and year-round services.

The business is now owned by Wagner’s granddaughter, Mary Louise Gedney, her husband, John Gedney Jr., and their three sons — John III, Michael and David. The day-to-day operations are now run by Wagner’s great-grandsons, John, Mike and David.

The company was originally located in Port Washington, N.Y. In 1945, it moved to Darien, and were in several locations before moving to its current one in 1996.

Services

It takes between two and three months to build a pool, depending on the scope of work, according to the younger Gedney.

Once the pool is constructed, Wagner’s service division will maintain the pool on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis.

Wagner provides year-round service for indoor pools.

In conjunction with the pool installation, Wagner will also install all the masonry work including pool terraces, walls, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, water features, fire pits, and other features.

Although a large portion of Wagner’s pool installations are in Fairfield and Westchester counties, Wagner has built pools in much farther locations including the Virgin Islands, Ohio, Canada, Lake Placid, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard.

Wagner also builds commercial swimming pools such as at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., the Ausable Club in the Adirondacks, the Riverside Yacht Club in Greenwich, and the Apawamis Club in Rye, N.Y.

Country club pools Wagner has built include the Wee Burn Country Club in Darien.

It also built pools for celebrities including Paul Newman, Michael Bolton, and Clive Davis, as well as Ralph Lauren, David Letterman, Diana Ross, and Betty Grable.

Pool evolution

According to Gedney, times have changed regarding pool shapes. For many years, exotic shapes were very popular, but this has changed and the most common shape now is a rectangle, with starting costs around $100,000.

With an on-staff landscape architect, Wagner also provides landscape design services. This is helpful when planning the entire project, according to the younger John.

Prior to the 1940s, pools were built like a foundation for a house, with poured concrete walls.

“We would excavate the hole, then pour the footings for the walls, then pour the floors in sections, and then tar caulk each section of the floor and walls,” Gedney said. “Then, the interior would get painted.”

In the 1940s, gunite became popular. Gunite is a high pressure, sprayed on concrete, and allows the pool to be any shape.

In addition, according to Gedney, Wagner has incorporated computer innovation into its pools, with services such as in-floor cleaning systems, automatic backwash systems, ozone and ultraviolet sanitation, and automatic fill systems.

Advice

When considering getting a pool built for one’s home, Gedney said everything should be planned out prior to hiring a pool company.

“Get your survey that shows all the property lines, the elevations of the property, and any wetlands and setbacks to the neighbors’ properties — all that information is extremely important right from the beginning,” he said. “If you get it designed up front, you save money later and there are no surprises.”

One hundred years

One reason Gedney said Wagner Pools has stayed in business for more than a century is its hard work ethic.

“It’s a lot of work to run a swimming pool company,” he said. “You are busy both on and off season. You are constantly on top of things, managing employees and customers.”

There are staff who have worked for the company for 45 years. There are up to 60 employees during the summer season.

“The dedication, training, and desire of our employees to maintain and deliver the highest quality and service to our clients is definitely a major key to our success,” he said.

In a telephone conversation from Florida, John Gedney Jr. spoke about the “quality” of Wagner Pools.

“We’ve had standards that are above and beyond the industry standards,” Gedney Jr. said. “We’ve adhered to that level of quality and bringing that experience to the table. We haven’t wavered from that plan and never will.”

He continued: “The personal service that we give, the level of expertise that we have, the dedication to it — being a family operation is a real plus.”

Gedney said he and his sons have had “great training” from E.L. Wagner and E.P. Wagner [E.L. Wagner’s son], and are “grounded in solid engineering principles, which have stood the test of time.”

Wagner Pools is a sponsor of Hackers for Hope, a charity to fight cancer.

Most of the time, people want a pool who have children and want to have “great family time,” Gedney said. “Being around a swimming pool is a great way to spend that time together.”

Gedney said he really enjoys building pools.

It’s “so much fun” when creating a brand-new pool,” he said. “It’s like you’re starting with a clean slate. There is just a lawn, bramble, and brush. We’ll take a blank slate and turn it into a beautiful pool.”

To contact E. L. Wagner Co., Inc., call 203-883-0348 or visit wagnerswimmingpools.com.