Private Pools of the Presidents: A Photo Essay

All the Presidents' pool, on the White House south lawn.

All the Presidents’ pool, on the White House south lawn. It is located behind the Oval Office. This is the north view.

Not every President has a private estate where they beat the heat of Washington by taking a running jump into a cool pool.

Franklin Roosevelt's pool at Warm Springs, Georgia, at the polio therapeutic and rehabilitations center he established there.

Franklin Roosevelt’s pool at Warm Springs, Georgia, at the polio therapeutic and rehabilitations center he established there.

But they do have the White House and Camp David. Both the primary presidential residence and the mountain retreat are equipped with pools. For some eighty years now, Presidents, First Ladies and their family members – dogs included – have had the luxury of a pool for exercise and leisure. They can use it in winter too, the pools of course being heated.

The first White House pool was built in 1933 for the therapeutic use of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was afflicted with polio and unable to walk. Once in the water, however, FDR had independence of mobility. Located in the West Wing, enclosed and along the colonnade which parallels the Rose Garden, it was easily accessible from the Oval Office and the Residence.

Eleanor Roosevelt learning how to dive at the family  pool in Hyde Park.

Eleanor Roosevelt learning how to dive at the family pool in Hyde Park.

Roosevelts, Trumans, Eisenhowers, Kennedys and Johnsons all got to use the pool. Eleanor Roosevelt was famous for showing up there in her rubber yellow bathing suit. Harry Truman liked to dive in without first removing his spectacles. John F. Kennedy hosted his notorious nude swimming parties here. Jackie Kennedy enjoyed slipping in for a quiet winter swim. LBJ often held meetings with senior staff submerged in the shallow end. Lady Bird Johnson would schedule an efficient work break to do a few laps.

The enclosed White House pool, however, was far from perfect. Being enclosed, the space tended to get a bit musty rather quickly. Since it was for the sole use of the First Family, privacy was ensured by having no windows, but this tended to make it rather dark for most of the daytime hours. With warm to tepid water, the room itself tended to get a bit steamy and a later air-conditioning effort did little to alleviate this.

The old White House pool is still intact, but it is now used for electrical generators and other maintenance needs serving the White House press room just above it.

The old White House pool is still intact, but it is now used for electrical generators and other maintenance needs serving the White House press room just above it.

Finally, in 1970, President Nixon had the pool covered up (but not removed) and use the prime space for desperately needed work rooms and a conference room for the White House press corps.

For five years, two presidential families thus lived without a White House pool until President Gerald Ford, a champion swimmer, had an outdoor pool installed behind the West Wing in 1975.

Hidden completely from public view behind bushes and high trees, a commodious pool house was also built, the facility later upgraded and powered by solar panels installed under George W. Bush. The Clintons had an outdoor spa built at the site.

The White House poolhouse with the George W. Bush solar panels on the roof; Obama installed more of them around the complex.

The White House poolhouse with the George W. Bush solar panels on the roof; Obama installed more of them around the complex.

The far more sumptuous pool at the disposal of Presidents and their families, however, is the one at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the nearby Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. First built as a rustic getaway for Franklin D. Roosevelt and christened “Shangri-La” there was a small pool some distance from the residential cabins.

Although F.D.R. is believed to have used it on a few occasions the first regular swimmer there was First Daughter Margaret Truman. When her mother Bess Truman brought her Missouri bridge club up to the retreat, the furtherest the modest middle-aged Midwestern ladies would go was to remove their shoes and stocking and dangle their legs in the cool water.

Renamed by President Eisenhower as “Camp David,” after his grandson, neither Ike or Mamie had much use for the pool and the Kennedys so rarely went to the retreat that there are no reports of them using the pool there.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson in his red pool robe.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson in his red pool robe.

It was the LBJs РLyndon Baines, Lady Bird, Lynda Bird and Luci Baines who really first made good use of the pool, hosting luncheons for gaggles of weekend friends there, a long telephone line being installed so the President could keep on working between sips of his Fresca and dog-paddling in the pool. There is an incredibly personal home movie showing the  LBJs around the Camp David pool inserted with the photos below.

Finally, in 1971, Richard Nixon took some action and had a new, massive pool built closer to the residential cabins, and made good use of its superior heating system with laps in the wintertime.

President Ford was a devoted dog dad to Liberty, even in the pool.

President Ford was a devoted dog dad to Liberty, even in the pool.

Gerald Ford always took a swim when he was at Camp David, even coaxing in the family’s Golden Retriever Liberty into the water with him.

The Carters, Bushes, and Obamas have also been known as pool-loving presidential families.

Starting with the Kennedy family, each First Family has also had their own pool at their private homes and even those who rented private homes to use as a “Summer White House,” from the Coolidges to the Obamas, have had one at their disposal, even if the ocean was just a few yards away.

The President and Mrs Coolidge on the lawn of "White Court," their 1925 Summer White House in Swampscott, Massachusetts. (Boston Public Library)

The President and Mrs Coolidge on the lawn of “White Court,” their 1925 Summer White House in Swampscott, Massachusetts. (Boston Public Library)

As can best be determined from contemporary accounts of presidential summer homes, Calvin and Grace Coolidge were the first to have use a pool, at the estate “White Court,” in Swamscott, Massachusetts during the summer of 1925. With a rambling and gabled mansion, extensive green lawns and flower garden, it was considered the official “Summer White House.”

It was considered a bit cutting edge, however, for its inclusion of a large salt-water pool.

There were no reporters of any Cal pool cooling, nor whether their white collie Rob Roy could be induced to take a dip, but the First Lady was a regular.

Here then, a pictorial essay on presidential pools, from the White House to Camp David to their private homes.

The indoor White House pool installed by President Franklin Roosevelt, built with the contribution of dimes sent in by children from around the country. He depended on it for movement his polio otherwise prevented him from enjoying.

The indoor White House pool installed by President Franklin Roosevelt in the West Wing, built with the contribution of dimes sent in by children from around the country. He depended on it for movement his polio otherwise prevented him from enjoying.

The other end of the FDR White House pool.

The other end of the FDR White House pool.

The indoor White House pool the year the Trumans moved out for renovations.

The indoor White House pool in 1948, the year the Trumans moved out for renovations.

The White House pool as upgraded and renovated by President Kennedy, including a mural of the South of France commissioned by his father.

The White House pool was upgraded and renovated under President Kennedy. As a gift to his son, former Ambassador Joseph Kennedy commissioned a ninety–seven foot wall mural by painter Bernard Lamotte, showing a scene of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands.

LBJ in the White House pool working with aides, including Jack Valenti at center..

LBJ in the White House pool working with aides, including Jack Valenti at center.

The outdoor pool installed by President Gerald Ford.

The outdoor pool installed by President Gerald Ford. This is the south view.

The fresh water pool of the "Summer White House" in Swampscott, Massachusetts, on the north shore near Boston, where Grace Coolidge swam daily and took instructions on the "Australian crawl." Secret Service agents were also permitted to use the pool.

The fresh water pool of the “Summer White House” in Swampscott, Massachusetts, on the north shore near Boston, where Grace Coolidge swam daily in 1925 and took instructions on the “Australian crawl.” Secret Service agents were also permitted to use the pool.

A beaming FDR in the pool at Warm Springs, Georgia, the center he founded for those seeking to rehabilitate mobility, after he lost the ability to walk due to polio.

A beaming President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the pool at Warm Springs, Georgia, the center he founded for those seeking to rehabilitate mobility, after he lost the ability to walk due to polio.

President Roosevelt at his Hyde Park estate pool with friends.

President Roosevelt at his Hyde Park estate pool with friends.

Margaret Truman with a friend at the old Camp David pool in 1950.

Margaret Truman with a friend at the old Camp David pool in 1950.

The Chief Usher recalled how mortified Bess Truman was when he caught her and her Missouri bridge club members simply dangling their bare legs in the Camp David pool.

The Chief Usher recalled how mortified Bess Truman was when he caught her and her Missouri bridge club members simply dangling their bare legs in the Camp David pool.

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Former President Dwight Eisenhower’s pool at his Palm Springs, California winter home; he is seen here walking around it into the house, consulting with a visiting President John F. Kennedy.

President Kennedy, at left, with his sister Pat Lawford and aide Dave Powers in the Palm Springs, California pool of actor Bing Crosby.

President Kennedy, at left, with his sister Pat Lawford and aide Dave Powers in the Palm Springs, California pool of actor Bing Crosby.

the kennedy palm beach pool

Rose Kennedy with her two eldest sons Joe and Jack, in the family’s pool at their Palm Beach, Florida estate.

President Kennedy with his son John in the Kennedy family’s Palm Beach home pool.

kennedy newport pool

At Newport’s Bailey’s Beach Club where the mother and stepfather of Jackie Kennedy were members, President Kennedy beckons his son John into the pool, coaxed by his step-uncle Yusha Auchincloss, his half-aunt Janet Auchincloss standing behind them.

President Kennedy, seated at right with nieces and nephews, brother-in-law Peter Lawford (back to camera) and sister Pat Lawford taking a picture of her children and brother at the poolside of the Lawford home in Santa Monica.

President Kennedy, seated at right with nieces and nephews, brother-in-law Peter Lawford (back to camera) and sister Pat Lawford taking a picture of her children and brother at the poolside of the Lawford home in Santa Monica.

The pool at the famous Kahala Resort - where Don Ho pushed Jackie in.

The pool at Hawaii’s famous Kahala Resort – where, in 1967, Don Ho pushed Jackie Kennedy in.

The dance floor converted to a pool.

On the yacht of Jackie Kennedy’s second husband, Ari Onassis, the dance floor converted to a pool.

The pool and a waterfall at the home in Greece Jackie Kennedy shared with her second husband, Ari Onassis.

The pool and a waterfall at the home in Greece Jackie Kennedy shared with her second husband, Ari Onassis.

Aerial view of President Lyndon Johnson's LBJ Ranch shows his large pool there.

Aerial view of President Lyndon Johnson’s LBJ Ranch shows his large pool there.

The LBJ Ranch pool.

A closer view of the LBJ Ranch pool.

lbj and yuki in the pool

LBJ multi-tasking in his pool, beloved dog Yuki in his arms, grandson Lyn at his side while the President reads a memo.

President Johnson engages some of his aides and advisers in a game of pool volleyball.

President Johnson engages some of his aides and advisers in a game of pool volleyball.

LBJ enjoying a lazy moment in the sun, floating in a pool chair at the LBJ Ranch.

LBJ enjoying a lazy moment in the sun, floating in a pool chair at the LBJ Ranch.

LBJ in the old pool at Camp David.

LBJ in the old pool at Camp David.

A Life Magazine cover story showing Nixon walking along the side of the pool; relatively few photos were publicly released of the interior rooms.

A Life Magazine cover story showing Nixon walking along what seems to be the side of a pool; relatively few photos were publicly released of the home and its grounds.

The Nixon Winter White House pool, facing Key Biscayne Bay.

The Nixon Winter White House pool, facing Key Biscayne Bay.

san clemente pool nixon

The pool of the “Western White House,” President Nixon’s private home “La Casa Pacifica,” in San Clemente, California.

san clemente pool of nixon

Another view of the Nixon pool in California.

San Clemente Nixon sitting by pool July 9 1971

President Nixon sits out by his San Clemente pool, July 9, 1971.

The new pool installed by Nixon in 1971 at Camp David, heated to a high enough temperature so the President could take a dip in December.

The new pool installed by Nixon in 1971 at Camp David, heated to a high enough temperature so the President could take a dip in December.

17 Oct 1973, Alexandria, Virginia, USA --- Original caption: Alexandria, VA: Vice Presidential nominee Representative Gerald Ford takes an early morning swim in his pool at his Alexandria, VA home.  Ford usually starts each day with a workout in the swimming pool. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Vice Presidential nominee Representative Gerald Ford takes an early morning swim in his pool at his Alexandria, Virginia home; he began each day with a swim. October 17, 1973.

Former President Ford's pool at his Rancho Mirage, California home, where he swam twice daily well into his 90s.

Former President Ford’s pool at his Rancho Mirage, California home, where he swam twice daily well into his 90s.

Summer Mountain Home, Pool

The pool enjoyed by former President and Mrs. Ford at their summer home in the Colorado mountains.

Liberty the dog with Gerald and Betty Ford in the Camp David swimming pool.

Liberty the dog with Gerald and Betty Ford in the Camp David swimming pool.

gerald ford does laps for the press white house pool

President Ford does laps for the press in his first swim in the new outdoor White House pool he commissioned to be built, after President Nixon had the old indoor West Wing pool installed by FDR, covered to be used as the press room.

Jack Ford took scuba diving lessons in the White House pool.

Jack Ford took scuba diving lessons in the White House pool.

First Daughter Amy Carter took diving lessons in the White House pool.

First Daughter Amy Carter took diving lessons in the White House pool.

The pool of the Reagan home.

The pool at the home of Ronald and Nancy Reagan in Los Angeles.

reagan ge house 5

From the Reagan pool, one could see Los Angeles skyscrapers in the distance.

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Ronald and Nancy Reagan pose in their pool, early 1960s.

patti reagan and father pool home

Reagan catches his daughter Patti as she cannonballs into the pool.

Nancy Reagan dries off her husband poolside,

Nancy Reagan dries off her husband poolside.

reagan diving board home

Reagan about to do a backwards flip off the diving board.

bush family pool kennubunkport maine

The Bush family pool at their summer estate in Kennebunkport, Maine.

George H. Bush with family dog C. Fred in the Kennebunkport pool.

George H. Bush with family dog C. Fred in the pool at the family’s Kennebunkport, Maine estate.

Barbara Bush's spaniel Spot spots a ball in the White House pool.

Barbara Bush’s spaniel Spot spots a ball in the White House pool.

bush bathing suit

Former President Bush enjoying the pool of his Texas home, without getting in the water.

The Clinton pool at their Chappaqua, New York home. B

An aerial view of the Chappaqua, New York home of former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shows their pool at upper left.

The W. Bush pool at their Prarie Chapel ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The pool of George W. and Laura Bush at their Prairie Chapel ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The pool of George W. Bush and Laura Bush at their Dallas home.

Another view of the pool at George W. and Laura Bush’s ranch house.

Guests in the White House pool during the second W. Bush Administration.

Guests in the White House pool during the second W. Bush Administration.

Jeb and George Bush avoided the water while poolside at the Houston hotel where they were staying during the convention which nominated their father in 1988 for President.

The pool and spa of the Obama "Summer White House," at Blue Heron Farm on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

The pool and spa of the Obama “Summer White House,” at Blue Heron Farm on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

President Obama running around the Camp David pool with a water gun, shooting daughter Sasha in the water.

President Obama running around the Camp David pool with a water gun, shooting daughter Sasha in the water.


Categories: First Ladies, Presidents, The Bushes, The Coolidges, The Kennedys, The LBJs, The Nixons, The Reagans, The Roosevelts

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6 replies »

  1. Always thoroughly enjoy your encyclopaedic posts… happy summer!

  2. Very good article. Thank you.

  3. Thank you so much, Carl! How timely and and the topic was truly refreshing…

    • Thank you Jan…made me wish I had a pool by the time I finished writing it, but then again we’ve got an ocean here in California! I appreciate you writing…

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