Huge old outdoor public swimming pools like these made summertime cool for everyone 100 years ago

Huge old outdoor public swimming pools 1900s - Click Americana

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100 years ago, public swimming pools were vital for summer survival

The charm of vintage public swimming pools from the early 1900s transports us back to a simpler time when community and recreation went hand in hand. These pools were bustling social hubs where families and friends gathered to escape the summer heat. Let’s take a look back!

In the early 1900s, public swimming pools became a popular fixture in many American cities. After the concept of public baths faded from favor, but before post-war homeowners started putting pools in their backyards in the 50s, American municipalities opened outdoor public swimming pools.

Old outdoor swimming pool in Charlotte NC in 1918 at ClickAmericana com
Old outdoor swimming pool in Charlotte NC in 1918

These outdoor swimming pools, often massive in size, served as an urban version of the old swimming hole, which had long served to keep rowdy youngsters and their disheveled parents cool and out of trouble during long, hot summers before air conditioners were widely available). In fact, these pools were often accompanied by diving boards and slides for extra fun.

Communities took pride in their local pools, with many designed as architectural gems featuring ornate tile work and elegant landscaping. These early pools set the stage for the swimming culture we enjoy today.

Public pools of this era were also a significant step forward in public health. They provided a safe and clean environment for swimming, helping to reduce the spread of waterborne diseases. Municipalities invested in these facilities as part of broader efforts to improve urban living conditions. This focus on hygiene and safety was a game-changer, making swimming a widely accessible activity for people of all ages. 

We’ve collected a selection of vintage photos showcasing these old city pools, highlighting their architectural beauty and the social scenes they hosted. You’ll get a good sense of what it was like at the city pool in the olden days — long before air conditioners and electronics were available to keep us cool and entertained.

ALSO SEE: 52 beautiful vintage in-ground swimming pools

Pool court: Victorian baths at Monmouth Beach, New Jersey (1900)

public swimming pools

Bathing pool in the casino, Palm Beach, Florida (1905)

1905 Bathing pool in the casino Palm Beach Fla.

NOW SEE THIS: San Francisco’s Victorian marvel: The huge swimming pools at Sutro Baths

Outdoor swimming pool in Onondaga Park, Syracuse, New York (1906)

From American country homes and their gardens, by John Cordis Baker

Pool in Onondaga Park Syracuse NY c1922

Outdoor public swimming pool, Belle Isle Park – Detroit, Michigan (c1910)

Here’s a colorized photo from America’s then-new “Motor City.” (For more on that, check out See Ford assembly lines from 100 years ago, mass-producing Model T cars.)

Outdoor public swimming pool, Belle Isle Park - Detroit, Michigan (c1910) Colorized

Steeplechase Park public swimming pool – Coney Island, New York (1912)

Steeplechase Park swimming pool Coney Island 1912

SEE MORE: 70 vintage Coney Island beach, boardwalk & amusement park scenes (1890s-1920s)

Atlantic City public swimming pool in Selma, Alabama (1917)

A swimming pool for every community; Selma sets pace for the whole central south

Swimming pool in Selma Alabama 1917

Old Brookside Pool – Cleveland, Ohio (1922)

Circular and oval shapes are very popular for large public pools because they have plenty of shallow water, which prevents crowding.

Old Brookside Pool - Cleveland, Ohio (1922)

DON’T MISS: Vintage kiddie swimming pools & inflatable backyard wading pools for children

Huge public swimming pool: Columbus Park, Chicago (1920s)

Pools of irregular outline, like this one in Columbus Park, Chicago, can sometimes be made to harmonize with the surrounding landscape better than those of rectangular form.

Swimming pool c1922 Columbus Park Chicago Illinois

The new “old swimming hole” in NYC (1920s)

“A boy is not likely to spend his time in a hot, stuffy alley shooting craps, when there is a swimming pool on the playground just around the corner.” – Jane Addams, Department of Education, New York City in the 1920s

The new old swimming hole - Community Pool in New York City (1920s)

The Roman pool, Miami Beach, Florida (1926)

Two side-by-side swimming pools were placed just a few dozen yards from the ocean. (Colorized photo)

The Roman pool, Miami Beach, Florida (1926)

Triangle public swimming pool – Pittsburg, Kansas (1922)

Triangle swimming pool - Pittsburg, Kansas (1922)

Sunset Park swimming pool – Tulsa, Oklahoma (1922)

Sunset Park swimming pool - Tulsa, Oklahoma

Old-fashioned public swimming pool from the 1920s in Oak Park, Illinois

Old-fashioned swimming pool from the 1920s in Oak Park, Illinois

John Deere Webber Memorial Baths – Minneapolis, Minnesota (1920s)

This pool was incredibly crowded — full of kids.

ALSO SEE: 47 dangerous old playgrounds that our great-grandparents somehow survived

John Deere Webber Memorial Baths - Minneapolis Minnesota (1920s)

1920s city swimming pool for kids

1920s city swimming pool for kids

Wardman Park public swimming pool – Washington, DC (1922)

Here’s a colorized photo of a peaceful poolside scene from the early 20s.

Wardman Parks swimming pool 1922-Colorized

Huge old public swimming pool: Memphis, Tennessee (c1922)

Swimming pool c1922 Memphis TN

Flanders Hotel pool – New Jersey (c1922)

MORE: See why old Atlantic City was a beautiful & popular vacation destination 100 years ago

Flanders Hotel NJ pool c1922

An old public pool in Rye, New York (c1920)

Rye, New York (c1920)

A round above-ground pool in Lansing, Michigan (1922)

Above-ground pool in Lansing, Michigan (1922)

Fairchild Swimming Pool – Freeland PA (1920s)

This colorized vintage postcard shows the water toboggan slide, and the “kiddie corner” of the pool in the shallow end.

Fairchild Swimming Pool - Freeland PA (1920s) - Colorized

A round pool & bathhouse in Idora Park, Youngstown, Ohio (1922)

From the 20s: An example of good architecture in bathhouse design. Notice the excellent arrangement of lights.

1922 concrete vintage swimming pools

Moyer Pool — Grand Junction, Colorado (1922)

1922 concrete vintage swimming pools

A huge river-like concrete pool in Kansas City, Missouri (1922)

1922 concrete vintage swimming pools

Eagle Springs, Kansas (1922)

1922 concrete vintage swimming pools 4

McKeesport Public Swimming Pool (1922)

An old reservoir at McKeesport, Pennsylvania, was converted into a popular swimming pool.

1922 concrete vintage swimming pools 5

Huge old swimming pool in Aurora, Illinois (1922)

One of the finest pools in the country at Aurora, Illinois, has clothing lockers in open courts with dressing benches between. Note the fountains delivering filtered water to the pool.

1922 concrete vintage swimming pools

Glen Oak Park, Peoria, Illinois (1930)

Glen Oak Park Peoria IL swimming pool

Crystal Pool — Woodside Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1930s)

Crystal Pool - Woodside Park, Pennsylvania (1930s) - Colorized

Big old municipal pools from the 1930s

Clairton, Pennsylvania; Shelbyville, Indiana; Sea Side Park, Virginia Beach, Virginia; Garfield Park, Indianapolis, Indiana

DON’T MISS! Dive into these 10 amazing old indoor swimming pools

Big municipal pools from the 1930s

 Miami, Oklahoma city pool (1940)

Oklahoma Miami City Pool 1940

Old Legion city pool – Kingsport, Tennessee (1930s-1940s)

Old Legion swimming pool - Kingsport, Tennessee (1930s-1940s)

A municipal pool in one of Florida’s beautiful parks (1930s-1940s)

A swimming pool in one of Florida's beautiful parks 1930s-1940s

Lincoln Park public swimming pool, Albany, N. Y

Lincoln Park swimming pool, Albany, N. Y

Monte Carlo municipal pool in Asbury Park, New Jersey

Monte Carlo swimming pool, Asbury Park

Neptune Beach  in Alameda, California

Neptune Beach Alameda California

Swimming pool at Palisades Amusement Park, N. J

Swimming pool, Palisades Amusement Park, N. J

Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Florida (1948)

Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Florida 1948

Piedmont Park bathing scene at Atlanta, Ga. (c.1930)

Piedmont Park Atlanta Ga c1930

Pool in Sulphur Springs, Tampa, Florida circa 1930

Pool in Sulphur Springs, Tampa, Florida c1930

Rock Lake swimming pool (Stop 12), St. Albans Line in Charleston, West Virginia

Rock Lake swimming pool, Stop 12, St. Albans Line, Charleston, West Virginia

Swimming pool at Moore’s Park in Lansing, Michigan 

Swimming pool, Moore's Park, Lansing, Mich

NOW SEE THIS: See old-fashioned swimsuits & what else people wore to the beach 100 years ago

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Comments on this story

4 Responses

  1. Love these photos! I am blown away by the sizes of some of the pools; especially the Neptune Beach in CA and Monte Carlo in NJ. I am also intrigued by the above ground pool in Michigan and love the beautiful Venetian pool in Florida.
    Thank you! Love this site!

  2. Was just listening to a pod cast talking about all these buried community pools. How Civil Rights caused cities to drain and bury these magnificent pools rather than share them with people of color.

    Everybody lost. So sad.

    1. Absolutely. There are horror stories about the lengths people would go to keep Blacks out of public pools. The people who needed municipal pools the most were the ones who could least afford alternatives, such as their own backyard pools or private clubs.

  3. Where were the wading pools in Detroit & Hamtramck, Michigan located? Were any of them inside a building? Do you know where I can find more information on pools in the early 1950’s before the polio epidemic?

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