A Short History of Swimming Pools


Swimming pools are places of congregation, relaxation, and competition. They’re popular venues where people cool off on hot summer days, learn to swim, and compete for records and titles. Swimming pools are generally monitored by lifeguards and are safer than lakes, rivers, and oceans, and are used by people of all ages. Generally, it’s no secret what a swimming pool is and what it’s used for, but does everyone know who built the first swimming pool, where it was located, and what some of the largest pools in the world are?


Taking A “Great Bath”

According to archaeologists, a pool known as the “Great Bath”, located in Pakistan was most likely the first swimming pool ever built. Dating back to the third millenium BC, this 39 ft x 23 ft pool was built with small bricks and a tar-like sealer to help it hold water. Cleverly engineered, the Great Bath featured staircases for entry points on two sides and a hole for emptying the water. More recently, Ancient Greeks and Romans constructed artificial pools to serve a variety of functions such as athletic training, nautical games, and even military exercises. The Romans are also responsible for building the first artificially heated pool.


Building Indoor Pools

Indoor pools in Great Britain increased in popularity in the 19th century. As early as 1837, indoor pools were built throughout London, and swimming clubs followed shortly thereafter. As pool popularity grew, races, diving contests, and water polo matches soon became commonplace in London pools.


When the modern Olympics Games were introduced to the world in 1896 and included swimming races among the events, the rest of the world began to take note and the popularity of pools blossomed. As overall Olympic popularity grew among nations, the number of public pools worldwide grew as well. In colder nations and places with cold seasons, indoor pools were constructed to cater to year round recreational use and training. Outdoor pools were still popular in cold regions, but have led to the need for winterization procedures to avoid costly damage from the cold.


Records & Notable Pools

The largest swimming pool in the world, according to Guinness World Records, is located in Algarrobo, Chile. Completed in 2006, the San Alfonso del Mar seawater pool measures 3223 ft long, 11 ft at its deepest, and covers an area of 20 acres.


The West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada holds the record for the largest indoor wave pool, while the overall largest indoor pool is located in Houston, TX at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.


When it comes to heated pools, the Fleichhacker Pool in San Francisco, CA holds the record for the largest one ever. Opened in 1925, this saltwater pool was so large that lifeguards originally used Kayaks to patrol the waters. Sadly, it closed in 1971 due to low attendance.


General Swimming Pool Usage

While swimming pools have been used for everything from military and space training, to Olympic training, pools are also used recreationally to teach children and adults to swim. Since the increase in pool popularity the costs of pool installation has dropped, and the appearance of private backyard pools has drastically increased. Private pools are commonly used to host parties, birthdays, and family gatherings.


Private swimming pools add additional work and home maintenance, but the density of pool ownership in neighborhoods has led to private companies offering services to open, close, and maintain pools. Swimming pool maintenance companies are essential in providing time for owners to enjoy the water and sun with their friends and families.