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Photos: Historic Swimming Pools on a Hot Afternoon

A few of our favorite spots for a dip soaked in history

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If you live in the Northeast (or pretty much anywhere east of the Rockies), then you already know this: It's very, very hot today. It's the kind of day where just getting to work is a sweaty ordeal. And if you don't sit in an air-conditioned office all day, well, you have our sympathy. But even if you do, today would make a great day to play hooky and go swimming instead. Our attention keeps getting drawn back to The New York Times feature on the Richmond Plunge, the historic public pool in Richmond, California, which reopened last year after a nine-year effort to save it. They really did used to make swimming pools better looking in the olden days. Below, we've collected a few photos of our favorites, mostly still in operation, though unfortunately not all open to the public.

The Richmond Plunge: The circa 1926 "municipal natatorium" closed in 2001 after deferred maintenance piled up and the city couldn't afford to fix it. It reopened last August, and is now the oldest operating swimming pool in the Bay Area (photos courtesy of The Plunge Web site).

Hearst Castle: The legendary palace built by Julia Morgan for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst contains two pools. There's the outdoor Neptune Pool:

And then there's the indoor Roman Pool  (photos via Wikipedia):

Bedford Springs Resort: For those in love with the ultra-historic, take a dip at the Bedford Springs Resort, in Bedford, Pennsylvania. The hotel was built in 1806, though the pool was built sometime later (photo via Flickr user Michael Feagans):

Glass Pool Inn: Fans of a more mid-century flair will like the Glass Pool Inn, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out the port holes for spectators. Alas, this motel recently closed, but it's so neat we're including it anyway. (photo via Flickr user Chris Ainsworth):

Sunset Pool: If you live in New York City, you have access to ten 1930s-era pools built under the Work Progress Administration. They're all quite cool, and an 11th is being added as soon as the McCarren pool undergoes refurbishing in Greenpoint. But Brooklyn's Sunset pool, one of the biggest, was an old-timey technological wonder. The Parks website notes that when it opened, "Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia dramatically flipped a switch, activating the pool's underwater lighting system." (Photo via New York Parks Department):

White House Press Pool: It's a pool of a different kind now, but the White House press room once housed an actual indoor swimming pool. In 1970, Richard Nixon approved a remodel project so the space above the old pool could be used to house television equipment for press briefings. This 1963 shot, from the White House Museum's Web page, shows a mural commissioned by Joe Kennedy, Sr., John F. Kennedy's father:

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