The History of Swimming Pools

Swimming pools have enjoyed a history of thousands of years, dating back to the ancient world, in Greek, Roman, Assyrian, and Egyptian cultures.


Perhaps the earliest structure recognized as a swimming pool is the “great bath,” which was constructed in Mohenjo-daro, Pakistan more than 5000 years ago during the 3rd Millennium, B.C. The large public water tank was discovered in 1926 during archaeological excavations in the region. The tank covers an area of 84 square meters and is up to 2.4 meters deep. The marvel was made water-tight by bricks which were tightly fitted and set with gypsum plaster on both the floor and walls. Thick tar was then used to seal the structure along the sides of the pool, and, most likely, under the floor, as well. Most historians believe the pool was likely used mostly  for ritualistic religious purposes, with the water believed to purify the bathers who were permitted to use it.

As time passed, the ancient Greeks and Romans experienced increased wealth and status, and pools became a status symbol in those parts of the world. During these times, pools became abundant. They not only served to beautify, but were also used for religious ceremonies, bathing, and socializing.

Pools could commonly be found in Greek “palaestras” (open court areas among rooms and columns where people could socialize) from the 6th to 8th Centuries B.C. Pools were even used in this era to physically prepare Greek and Roman soldiers for war. So important to the Greek way of life was swimming that Plato, Greek philosopher, believed children should be educated in swimming just as they were in traditional educational subjects such as mathematics and astronomy.

Greek and Roman emperors commonly built elaborate pools and stocked them with fish. The word pool is actually derived from the Latin “piscine,” meaning fish.

In 8 BC, Gaius Maecenus, an advisor to Augustus Caesar, designed the first ever jacuzzi-style pool, with elaborate waterfalls, landscaping, overlooking terraces, and other features of opulence.

The Romans built a massive pool of more than 900,000 square feet in A.D. 305. Unique about this structure at the time was that enormous fires were generated in the basement beneath the floor of the pool, and the heat was then transported to the pool by the columns and walls.

A resurgence of swimming pools began with an emergence of competitive swimming in the early 1800’s in Britain, led by the National Swimming Society.  The Society used indoor swimming pools in London to train and compete. As competitions became popular, the Amateur Swimming Association was founded in 1880. Then, in 1896, swimming officially became an event in the Olympic Games for the first time.

Swimming pools first came to prominence in the United States early in the 1900’s. Deep Eddy Pool in Austin, Texas, one of the nation’s first in-ground swimming pools, actually began as a swimming hole in the Colorado River (which runs through Austin). A.J. Eilers, Sr., bought the adjacent land in 1915 and constructed a concrete pool, which was part of a larger resort named “Deep Eddy Bathing Beach.” The site is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic landmark.

Another pool affiliated with a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 is the first known above-ground swimming pool in America, a part of the Philadelphia Racquet Club clubhouse, which is believed to have been constructed in 1907. It was designed by Roebling Construction Company, which was a prominent bridge contractor at the time.

Massive cruise ships even included swimming pools during this era. The first swimming pool to cross the Atlantic Ocean was on the Adriatic, one of White Star Lines’ ships, in 1907. Surrounded by saltwater, the ship offered a freshwater, cool, clean pool onboard. The Adriatic’s sister ship, the Titanic, also had a swimming pool.

In 1924, in Coral Gables, Florida, a historic swimming pool designed by Phineas Paist and Denman Fink was completed. It is known as Venetian Pool. The pool was created from an abandoned coral rock quarry, and it holds more than 820,000 gallons of water that come from artesian wells. At this volume, Venetian Pool is the largest freshwater pool in America.

Venetian Pool was part of the development of Coral Gables, Florida. It was designed in Mediterranean Revival style and named for Venice, Italy. Though Venetian Pool has undergone many changes over time, it was restored, in many respects, to its original features in 1989. In 1981, Venetian Pool was also added to the National Register of Historic Places. Though other pools are affiliated with sites which are on the Register, Venetian Pool is the only pool itself actually listed. Today, beyond just an inviting, clean pool, the historic site includes caves and waterfalls, and offers countless amenities to visitors.

After the end of World War II, as the country rebounded economically and Hollywood movies romanticized life throughout the country, swimming pools became a status symbol in the States. Having a pool in the backyard became a sign that a person had realized the American dream.


Today, there are swimming pools in almost every nation, even in nations where some might not expect to find them. New Zealand has more pools per capita than any other country (200,000 swimming pools and only 4 million residents). By comparison, the National Swimming Pool Foundation estimates there are 10 million swimming pools (including 360,000 public pools) in the United States. The U.S. has a population of 318.9 million people.

Whether you want to beautify your property, improve your property value, or just have more fun, a pool can help you do just that, and your local pool store can help you accomplish your goals. Ask an expert at your local pool store what pool services and pool supplies you need to get started or contact us and we would be happy to help!