:: UrbEx Series :: Fleishhacker Pool House ::
Last weekend my friend and I took a step into some very trashed ruins of what was once the worlds largest outdoor pool — the Fleishhacker Pool. This behemoth opened in 1925, held 6 million gallons and could accommodate 10,000 swimmers. All that is left now is the 450 foot long pool house. The pool was paved over years ago by the SF Zoo.
The year was 1921 and only a few years earlier, a grand scheme to bring water to the city of San Francisco came to fruition. Despite the protests of John Muir, the Spring Valley Water Company had succeeded in transporting fresh glacier water hundreds of miles from Yosemite to San Francisco. The Fleishhacker Pool was a final capstone in the symbolic “watering” of San Francisco, and the city of San Francisco had spared no expense.
“Spring Valley Water Company was the quintessential symbol of Pork Barrel Spending in post-Earthquake San Francisco. The company had used ruthless lobbying to derail John Muir’s efforts to save Hetch Hetchy. Spring Valley Water was so effective at reaping the rewards of politicians that they literally convinced Congress to turn what would become part of a National Park into the personal Bethsheba of San Francisco.”
“To this day, the city depends on the water of Hetch Hetchy, but it came at a cost – the valley was considered only second to Yosemite Valley itself before it was inundated by the waters of the dam.
None of this controversy takes away from the beauty of the pool’s grand construction. There was little public discussion of the kickback made to Spring Valley Water for the land “given” to the city.”
“the Fleishhacker Pool opened in April of 1925 to a crowd of 5,000. Butressing the edge of the the pool was the 450-foot-long Bath House — a Mediterranean, Italianate structure with three elaborate entrances, all surrounded by an Ionic order of pilasters. Inside were separate wings for men, women, and children.”
“These wings were naturally illuminated by 22 skylights. Upstairs was a grand restaurant that looked out to the 1000-foot-long pool on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.”
Throughout its five-decade history as a public swimming destination, Fleishhacker would be the setting of San Francisco’s most unique lores and legends; there was the story of the shark being sucked in through the 200-foot-long intake pipe coming from the ocean, a stove discovered in the deep end of the pool when it was drained for maintenance, and the disembodied hand reportedly found by a gardener, floating in the pool.
But the real amazing facts reside in the sheer size of the pool – 1000 feet long, over 150 feet wide, and 13 feet deep at its deepest point. The pool held 6,000,000 gallons of ocean water, continually cleaned once every six weeks by becoming completely drained and sweeped and pumped clean.
[back westerly side]
See the entire Flickr set here