Outdoor Swimming Pool

The swimming pool and cabana in 1992 (HABS)


East of the pool is the Horseshoe Pit (NARA)

No Cannonballs, Please

The pool and cabana in 2002, after renovation (Solar Design Associates)


The swimming pool and cabana were installed in 1975 by Gerald Ford, an avid swimmer. Ford didn't want to evict the White House press corps in order to refurbish the indoor swimming pool under the Press Briefing Room. When it was complete, President Ford showed off for the press and continued to use it frequently. Jack Ford immediately took scuba diving lessons in it. A cabana was later added to provide a changing area and showers and to screen the pool from the West Wing. An underground passage was even created from to allow the first family to get to the cabana from the West Wing ground floor without going outside.

Later, Amy Carter practiced her diving technique here. Barbara Bush was one of the pool's most frequent users, despite once having discovered a rat sharing the water. Hillary Clinton also enjoyed it (she considered renovating the indoor pool and moving the press to a new facility). The Clintons also installed an outdoor spa.


The renovated cabana, with flush-mounted solar collector (Evergreen Solar)

In 2002, as part of usual renovations and a new effort to make the White House more eficient, the cabana was renovated: extra were windows added, the roof was raised, and a solar array was put on top.

The solar thermal array uses water heated in pipes by the sun; not photovoltaic cells creating electricity. It provides hot water to the cabana. What is not used there is used to heat the outdoor spa installed by the Clintons. Remaining heat is used to help heat the pool.

The solar array was designed to blend in with the roof of the cabana and, even on close inspection, appear no more obtrusive than a skylight. James Doherty, an architect with the National Park Service White House Liaison Office, managed the solar installations. Since the White House grounds were designated a national park, the NPS has responsibility for and jurisdiction over the lawn, gardens, and buildings. Additional solar arrays were added to the maintenance building in the southwest corner of the South Lawn, directly south of the swimming pool.

Prior to 1975, this area was just part of the south lawn, screened on the west side by trees and bushes.

More Images

3D rendering of the swimming pool in 2007 (Peter Sharkey)

First Lady Laura Bush sitting with Mrs. Tom Ridge at a pool party in 2006 (White House via Wonkette)

White House pool party in 2006 (White House via Wonkette)

Spotty considers retrieving a ball, circa 2002 (White House - Paul Morse)

The swimming pool in 1992, looking southwest (HABS)

The swimming pool overview in 1984, looking northwest

President Ford with Liberty and pup, circa 1976 (Ford Library)

President Ford showing off in the new swimming pool in 1975, before the cabana was built (Ford Library)

President Ford showing off in the new swimming pool in 1975 (Ford Library)


Old Tennis Court

Sandy Wiener and Bill Tilden on the courts in 1923 (Library of Congress)

Tennis match on the old court in 1922 (Library of Congress)

Tennis match on the old court in 1922 (Library of Congress)

The south side of the West Wing, circa 1912, where the pool and cabana would eventually be (Library of Congress)