Early Swimming Pools of Tucson

There is some doubt as to the first swimming pool in Tucson. Many sources list the Wetmore pool, built by Ralph A. Wetmore, a local water dowser and driller. This pool was built in 1918 on the site of the present day Tucson Mall. 

One Arizona Daily Star article, however, suggests that the true first pool may have been The Natatorium. This was a heated indoor pool located near the southeast corner of Alameda Street and Main Street. It first appeared in the 1897-1898 city directory, and last appeared in the 1907 directory. It was described by those who remembered it in 1974 as “exceedingly modest” and “[not] very clean.” 

Another early pool was built in 1907 by Levi Manning in what became The Manning House. He initially intended this pool as a holding tank for irrigation water, but opened it to the local youth who enjoyed swimming. Today, the Manning House is owned by El Rio Health. 

By the mid-1910s, the first YMCA pool was opened in Tucson, and in 1916, the University of Arizona opened its first pool. 

Other noteworthy early swimming pools include the Elysian Grove pool, a children’s swimming pool where swimming lessons were offered for Black and Latinx boys and girls in the late 1920s (located near Main Avenue and Cushing Street); the Santa Rita Park Pool, the first park built by the City of Tucson, in 1931 (located at 22nd Street and 2nd Avenue); and Clearwater Pool in Menlo Park, at the base of A Mountain.


Arizona Historical Society Library.

"Beginning Swimmers Can Sign Up at Five Pools" | The Arizona Daily Star, June 12, 1929

Cox, Larry. Book of Tucson Firsts, Tucson, Ariz: Javalina Press. 1998. Page 133.

Martin, J.C. "Where Tucson Used To Go Swimming" | The Arizona Daily Star. April 28, 1974

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