Which U.S. President Put A Swimming Pool In The White House?
When we think of the President of the United States, we often think of a person in a suit, someone who is constantly busy doing important political activities and who doesn’t have much time to relax or have fun. But Presidents are people too, and like the average American, many of them have enjoyed exercising and having fun by playing sports. But has any U.S. President enjoyed swimming as a sport, and if so, does that mean that there is a swimming pool at the White House? Below, we will take a look at the answer to this question.
Has a U.S. President Ever Put a Swimming Pool in the White House?
As it turns out, a U.S. President has, in fact, had a pool installed inside the White House. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd President of the United States, put a swimming pool in the White House in June of 1933, where it remained throughout his unusually long Presidency, which lasted from 1933 until his death on April 12, 1945.
History of the White House Swimming Pool
Less than two weeks after FDR was elected in 1933, New York Daily News publisher, Joseph Patterson, sparked a fundraising campaign in Roosevelt’s honor. His idea was to build a swimming pool within the White House to allow the new President a place to exercise, which was necessary because of Roosevelt’s battle with polio. FDR was diagnosed with poliomyelitis at the age of 39, a disease that deteriorated his motor skills and infamously put him in a wheelchair. FDR’s physical disability incapacitated him from performing many forms of exercise, leaving swimming as one of his few releases.
Patterson’s deep admiration for FDR’s plans to lead the United States out of the Great Depression was a key talking point in his campaign to fundraise for the White House swimming pool. The Daily News campaign proved successful, despite the country’s desperate financial situation, and on June 2, 1933, the presidential swimming pool opened.
FDR’s Swimming Pool
Roosevelt quickly began making use of the White House pool, swimming there nearly every day. In the early 1930s, the rectangular, 50-foot-long pool, complete with underwater lighting and surrounded by beautiful architecture, was an impressive amenity. John F. Kennedy is the President who reportedly got the second-most use out of the pool after Roosevelt. Impressionist Bernard Lamotte was even hired during the Kennedy administration to add a mural to the walls of the pool room. President Harry Truman was allegedly laughed at for swimming in the pool with his glasses on.
Throughout the years, many important visitors have spent time in the pool, including cabinet members during the Kennedy Administration, First Dog Charlie Kennedy, and American Evangelist Billy Graham.
What Happened to the White House Swimming Pool?
In 1970, the 37th president of the United States, Richard Nixon, felt that the rising demand for televised news about White House events commanded a space specifically assigned for such briefings. Unfortunately, the space Nixon selected was a room directly above FDR’s swimming pool. President Nixon drained the pool in order to establish the press briefing room still used to this day, now called the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. Nixon did, however, order that construction of the new press room ensure that the possibility of someday restoring the pool would be left open.
Although FDR’s swimming pool was the first White House pool and the one with perhaps the most historic lore surrounding it, it is not the only pool to have been constructed on White House property. In 1975, President Gerald Ford had an outdoor pool installed on the South Lawn. President Ford’s swimming pool is still in working order today.