TRIVIAL PURSUITS: When Did the First Public Swimming Pool Open in the U.S.?

This past weekend, Memorial Day weekend, is considered the unofficial start to summer and many public and community pools opened.

When did the first public swimming pool open in the U.S.?


Most sources cite the book “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming in America,” which says the Cabot Street Bath in Boston was the first swimming pool in the U.S. It opened in 1868 and served a neighborhood where most of the homes did not have baths.


However, author Jeff Wiltse notes that at the time cholera was a concern and was thought to be associated with poor human hygiene. The facility featured two 20’ X 24’ pools, one for males and one for females. The goal was cleanliness for working men. “Bathers plunged their dirty bodies into the water and rubbed their skin clean,” says Wiltse, but, instead of serving mainly working men, children accounted for nearly 97% of the baths.


The first swimming pool designed as a great place to socialize and escape the summer heat before the invention of air conditioning was a public pool built in 1887 in Brookline, Massachusetts. 


One of the first residential pools built was on the Vanderbilt estate in Asheville, North Carolina in 1895.   Other wealthy families followed suit.