A Brief History of Swimming Pools

Swimming pools have been such a popular summertime attraction of the 20th and 21st centuries that it is hard to imagine that these man-made structures for aquatic recreation have been around for millennia. It is believed, however, that the first pool ever built was dug by the Indus Valley Civilization during the third millennium BC in what is today Pakistan. Though no longer filled with water, the “Great Bath” as historians call it still exists today as one of the most well-known structures among the ruins at the site of Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan. It is approximately 39 feet long by 23 feet wide and is lined with finely-fitted tan-colored bricks. It was complete with staircases leading down into the waters and a layer of water-tight natural tar along the pool floor.

The civilizations of the Middle East were not the only ones to build pools, however. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also built artificial pools for athletic purposes, and Roman emperors kept their own private swimming pools populated with fish. The Romans, surprisingly enough, were even the first to have heated swimming pools, as well-known patron of the arts Gaius Maecenas of Rome built one in the first century BC.

It wasn’t until the mid 19th century that swimming pools became especially popular as a place for recreation. In 1839, Oxford built its first major public indoor pool at Temple Cowley, and in 1844, one of the world’s first swimming clubs was established in Kent, England. By the time the first modern Olympics rolled around in 1896, swimming events were among the first athletic events to be included. And as such, bathing pools of the past gradually grew into popularity and became swimming pools.

The oldest known in-ground public swimming pool in the United States was built in Belmont, Massachusetts in 1912, and after that, swimming pools began to sprout up all over the country. Interest in swimming as a competitive sport grew in popularity in the U.S. following World War I. They became especially popular as luxury home amenities after World War II when Hollywood films commonly portrayed famous actors and actresses enjoying a poolside bask in the sun or an afternoon swim.

Today, it isn’t uncommon to drive through neighborhoods lined with residential pools, with an additional community pool at the very center. It is estimated that there are over 8 million swimming pools in the United States, including both residential and commercial pools, and both in-ground and above-ground residential pools.


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