The former White House swimming pool, which has since been converted into a computer server room, is located beneath the present press room. It was here that President Franklin D. Roosevelt's polio therapy treatments were administered by Dr. Howard Girdwood. The pool's depth is four feet less than half the length of a football field, but it can be filled to within an inch of its top with only one small pump.
How did the pool come to be built in the first place? Before there was a press room, before there were computers, this was the place where President Roosevelt got his exercise. The pool had been installed in 1913 when the first floor of the current building was completed. It was kept open year-round at a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and a electric light was left on for him at night.
Why do we need a press room anyway? In case you haven't heard, the president makes some very powerful people happy by saying things over the radio they don't like. They tell their friends not to listen to the president because he's lying through his teeth. And so forth. This practice began during World War I, when the president sent messages to the American people asking them to buy war bonds.
The swimming pool at the White House, the official residence of the President of the United States, is located near the West Wing on the South Lawn. The current pool was built by former president William Howard Taft and his family during their tenure from 1909 to 1930. It is approximately 12 feet (3.6 m) deep and covers about an acre (0.4 ha).
In addition to being used for relaxation, the pool is also used for practicing water polo and for cooling off game fish that have been caught in the nearby Potomac River. The fish are then released back into the river.
There have been swimmers in the pool including first ladies, presidential children, and other household guests. Today, people can swim at any time but it is recommended to check with a staff member before entering the pool due to security precautions taken by the Secret Service.
In recent years, the size of the pool has been reduced to meet security requirements after several incidents involving swimmers on the lawn. Although no one has been killed by a terrorist attack at the White House, damage caused by arsonists and intruders has resulted in the loss of life. In 1800, the first house was burned down by an intruder who was trying to destroy evidence of an alleged crime.
The pool, which was created on the west terrace between the White House and the West Wing, was covered up when the press briefing room was built during Nixon's administration in 1970. The pool was restored when the new White House was being constructed in 1792-1802. It has been reopened several times since then for various events such as Christmas parties and official state functions.
The first swimming pool at the White House was a major improvement over the previous option of washing clothes in the East River or pumping water from the nearby Potomac River. President Theodore Roosevelt hired a professional swimmer named William G. Bissell Jr. to design and build the pool. It contained no less than five separate chambers for varying temperatures, so that even children could enjoy the pool without danger of overheating or freezing. The pool was open from early June until early September, but even during winter months it was never closed.
Roosevelt was fond of swimming and used the opportunity to get away from it all. He often invited friends and members of his staff to join him in the pool, sometimes holding meetings underwater! Although he was not officially sworn in as president until March 1909, Roosevelt began using the pool before then as a place where he could relax and escape from the pressures of office.