History of Swimming Pools (2023)

Splashing around in the pool all summer has been a favorite pastime for ages. Have you ever wondered where the idea for a swimming pool came from? We dove into the vaults of history to bring you some facts about pools from ancient to modern times.

Ancient Pools

The first known swimming pool dates back to ancient history. The Great Baths of Mohenjo-Daro, constructed around 2600 B.C.E., was one of the earliest known pools.1 Built out of brick and gypsum, the pool featured stairs and benches with a large surrounding deck. Experts believe that is was likely used for religious ceremonies.2

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History of Swimming Pools (1)

Photo Credit: Saqib Qayyum / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Around 600 B.C.E., public baths were popping up in Greece when Plato took a stand on teaching children to swim. Around the first century, Roman diplomat Gaius Maecenas oversaw the first heated pool, which then became the norm for each major city in the Roman empire. The ruins of the Roman baths can still be seen today, including the massive 900,000 square foot bath that was built in 305 C.E.2


History of Swimming Pools (2)

Photo Credit: Diego Delso / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Growing Popularity

Aside from these ancient baths, swimming pools didn’t really take off until the middle of the 1800s. Six indoor swimming pools were built in London by 1837, and once the modern Olympic Games began in 1896 the popularity of swimming pools started to grow.1 The fashion of that era, which consisted largely of wool, was a major contributor to why pools and swimming was slow to take off again. Swimming in heavy wool in a cold climate was less than appealing! In the warmer climate of Australia, lidos, or outdoor swimming pools, became popular all over the country and were often filled with seawater. These pools allowed people to swim and enjoy the seawater at times when it may have been dangerous to swim in the sea.3

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Pools in the U.S.

The United States saw its first swimming pool is 1868 at the Cabot Street Bath in Boston. Though not a “pool” in today’s sense of the word, it was built to serve a neighborhood where most could not afford homes with baths.1 In 1907, Philadelphia saw the U.S.’s first above ground swimming pool. This pool was built at a club known as the Philadelphia Racket.2 Soon after, in 1910, the first major technological advancement in modern swimming pools came about. The use of sanitation and filtration methods in swimming pools was a modern marvel. Prior to these advancements, pool water could only be cleaned by replacing the dirty water with fresh water. This same year, gunite was invented by Carl E. Akley, which made the way for inexpensive and quick pool construction.2

Post World War II

After the end of WWII, swimming pools became a luxury and a status symbol.2 When the middle-class rose after the war, the use of gunite to build affordable pools grew, and the pool building industry skyrocketed.1 Not long after gunite became popular, another affordable option grew in popularity. In 1947, above ground pool kits became available, which changed the pool experience in its entirety. In just one day, you could now have your pool built and ready for you to enjoy.1 If you ever moved to a new home, or found yourself no longer using your pool, it could be taken down and moved to the new home, or even sold.3

To this day, modern pools continue to evolve in construction, design, and features. Now, you can have your pool completely controlled and monitored right from your smartphone! Our Pinch A Penny stores carry a wide variety of pool equipment and technology to help bring your pool to the modern era. Stop by your local Pinch A Penny today to talk to one of our experts about how we can enhance your backyard pool!

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When was swimming pools invented? ›

The first known swimming pool dates back to ancient history. The Great Baths of Mohenjo-Daro, constructed around 2600 B.C.E., was one of the earliest known pools. Built out of brick and gypsum, the pool featured stairs and benches with a large surrounding deck.

Who invented the swimming pool? ›

The first heated swimming pool was built by Gaius Maecenas of Rome in the 1st century BC. Gaius Maecenas was a rich Roman lord and considered one of the first patrons of arts.

When did backyard pools become popular? ›

Home swimming pools became popular in the United States after World War II and the publicity given to swimming sports by Hollywood films such as Esther Williams' Million Dollar Mermaid made a home pool a desirable status symbol. More than 50 years later, the home or residential swimming pool is a common sight.

What is the history of indoor pools? ›

1837: Indoor Pools

Swimming moved indoors in the mid-19th century; in the early 1800s, competitive swimming had been introduced in Britain by the National Swimming Society, and London had six indoor swimming pools by 1837 to accommodate year-round exercise and swimming competitions.

How did they keep pools clean in the past? ›

Before Chlorine were Regular Water Changes

Before the age of sterilization technologies, pools were mostly kept clean through inventive filtration techniques and the frequent dumping and refilling of dirty pool water.

What is the oldest pool in America? ›

The home of America's oldest public park and swimming facility, the Boston Common and Frog Pond still stand today as symbols of a time when commercial pools were the focal point of city life.

Why is a pool called a pool? ›

The word "pool" means a collective bet, or ante. Many non-billiard games, such as poker, involve a pool but it was pocket billiards that the name became attached to.

When was the first inground pool made? ›

The first inground pool was introduced in Texas in 1910. It was commonly known by the name of Deep Eddy and is still operational in Austin to this day. In Philadelphia, the first above ground pool came into fruition in 1907. Following WWII, swimming pools soared in popularity especially for the wealthy.

Was there a pool on the Titanic? ›

Located on F Deck next to the Turkish Baths, the Swimming pool, or Swimming Bath gave the First class passengers a unique experience at sea. Filled with heated sea water, the pool was described as being "refreshing". This room remains sealed off by a watertight door on the wreck today.


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