100 years ago, public swimming pools were vital for summer survival
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 cities — especially where there were fewer lakes or rivers nearby — community swimming pools were touted as a healthy, safe alternative to kids spending time on the streets.
There are enough photos here to give you 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.
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Pool court: Victorian baths at Monmouth Beach, New Jersey (1900)
Bathing pool in the casino, Palm Beach, Florida (1905)
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Outdoor swimming pool in Onondaga Park, Syracuse, New York (1906)
From American country homes and their gardens, by John Cordis Baker
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.)
Steeplechase Park public swimming pool – Coney Island, New York (1912)
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Atlantic City public swimming pool in Selma, Alabama (1917)
A swimming pool for every community; Selma sets pace for the whole central south
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.
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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.
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 Roman pool, Miami Beach, Florida (1926)
Two side-by-side swimming pools were placed just a few dozen yards from the ocean. (Colorized photo)
Triangle public swimming pool – Pittsburg, Kansas (1922)
Sunset Park swimming pool – Tulsa, Oklahoma (1922)
Old-fashioned public 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.
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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.
Huge old public swimming pool: Memphis, Tennessee (c1922)
Flanders Hotel pool – New Jersey (c1922)
MORE: See why old Atlantic City was a beautiful & popular vacation destination 100 years ago
An old public pool in Rye, New York (c1920)
A round 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.
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.
Moyer Pool — Grand Junction, Colorado (1922)
A huge river-like concrete pool in Kansas City, Missouri (1922)
Eagle Springs, Kansas (1922)
McKeesport Public Swimming Pool (1922)
An old reservoir at McKeesport, Pennsylvania, was converted into a popular swimming pool.
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.
Glen Oak Park, Peoria, Illinois (1930)
Crystal Pool — Woodside Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1930s)
Big old municipal pools from the 1930s
Clairton, Pennsylvania; Shelbyville, Indiana; Sea Side Park, Virginia Beach, Virginia; Garfield Park, Indianapolis, Indiana
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Miami, Oklahoma city pool (1940)
Old Legion city pool – Kingsport, Tennessee (1930s-1940s)
A municipal pool in one of Florida’s beautiful parks (1930s-1940s)
Lincoln Park public swimming pool, Albany, N. Y
Monte Carlo municipal pool in Asbury Park, New Jersey
Neptune Beach in Alameda, California
Swimming pool at Palisades Amusement Park, N. J
Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Florida (1948)
Piedmont Park bathing scene at Atlanta, Ga. (c.1930)
Pool in Sulphur Springs, Tampa, Florida circa 1930
Rock Lake swimming pool (Stop 12), St. Albans Line in Charleston, West Virginia
Swimming pool at Moore’s Park in Lansing, Michigan
NOW SEE THIS: See old-fashioned swimsuits & what else people wore to the beach 100 years ago
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!
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.