The History of Swimming Pools

Swimming pools have been around since ancient times. They were places for locals to socialize, make business deals or escape the heat. Now let’s dive into the history of swimming pools!

Where Did the Swimming Pool Originate?


History of Swimming Pools - Pakistan

The ancient site of the Great Bath of Mohenjo-Daro in modern-day Sindhu province, Pakistan. 

Everything has to start somewhere. So let’s talk about what we think to be the very first swimming pool. It was built over 5,00 years ago in the ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro in modern-day Pakistan. It is now an archeological treasure and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. “The Great Bath of Mohenjo-Daro is the earliest water tank recorded in ancient civilization.

The design was quite sophisticated for the time, featuring an intricate bathing site made from hand-cut bricks and terraced desks. The pool was coated in plaster to prevent the water from escaping.

Historians speculate this Great Bath was closed to the general public. It was probably used for religious ceremonies and purification rituals. The Great Bath had a series of rooms and a built-in well that stored water to fill its tank.

Who Invented Swimming Pools?

There is no specific person who invented the swimming pool. However, as mentioned earlier, they were invented in Pakistan. Although the first heated swimming pool was built by Gaius Maecenas of Rome in the 1st century B.C. Maecenas was a rich Roman lord and is one of the first patrons of arts. The first pool was decorated with lush gardens, terraces and other luxury decors.

Ancient Swimming Pools

In Ancient Rome, an increase in wealth allowed citizens to access luxury items like swimming pools. For thousands of years, water played an important role in daily life. Because of this, pools were built for a variety of reasons. Beyond making a property look more valuable, they were also used for bathing, religious ceremonies and socializing. 

In 305 A.D., Romans built a bath that was over 900,000 square feet. This pool was a giant public pool for use by all citizens. Pools were part of the military and education systems. The Roman military used pools to train for war. This prepared soldiers for battles in swampy or oceanic terrains.

Greek philosopher Plato even preached that every child should learn to swim as part of their education. This was in conjunction with mathematics, writing and astronomy. Ancient Rome idolized the Greek Society it had conquered. So many traditions carried over into their culture.


History of Swimming Pools - Roman Bath

 Example of an ancient Roman bath in southern England.

When did Pools Become Popular?

Swimming began to rise in popularity during the middle of the 19th century. Around this time, competitive swimming started to gain traction too. These were introduced by the National Swimming Society of Great Britain.

At this time, only the sidestroke and breaststroke existed. This was until 1873 when Britain made the front crawl. Races became quicker and more exciting. Improving the front crawl by adding different kicks and ratios eventually invented the freestyle stroke to competitive swimming.

Diving boards became more popular too. They were present in London, the U.K. as early as 1837.

It was the modern 1896 Olympics in Athens that declared swimming as a competitive sport. It was this that attracted people to want their private pools. 

History of Swimming Pools in the 1900s

In this century, the first in-ground swimming pool was found in Austin, Texas, United States. It was Deep Eddy Pool. It was built during the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration. Deep Eddy remains a popular swimming destination today.

The first above-ground pool in the U.S. dates back to 1907, which was built by the Philadelphia Racquet Club. In 1979, this clubhouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Another milestone is the first swimming pool to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It was installed on the Adriatic cruise ship from White Star Lines in 1907. Its sister ship is The Titanic. 

When was Chlorine First Used in Pools?

Chlorine is still used to keep our pools clean today. However, it was first used in the maternity wards of Vienna General Hospital in Austria in 1847 to prevent the spread of “childbed fever.” Brown University used it to clean its swimming pool in 1910. 

This was the first time a pool was cleaned with chlorine in the U.S. Other filtration systems were later developed. Before pool filters, removing and replacing the water was the only way to clean a pool.

History of Swimming Pools After World War II

After World War II, swimming pools were more popular than ever. Suburbs were quickly popping up and a pool in the backyard became part of the American Dream.

Pneumatically placed concrete (gunite) increased the amount of privately owned pools. These appeared before 1940. After World War II, savings generated by gunite aided the expansion of swimming pools across North America.

Modern Swimming Pools

Swimming pools can be found all over the world today. There are many styles and features that let people do more than simply swim. Although many are still used for leisure and competitive swimming.

Did you like our swimming history lesson? Comment below, we’d love to hear from you!