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WORLD’S LARGEST INDOOR SWIMMING POOL

Henry Flagler’s other hotel, the Alcazar Hotel (now the Lightner Museum and St. Augustine City Hall), once had what was touted in the 19th century as the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. The pool, which was in the semi-subterranean ground floor, was 120 feet long by 50 feet wide, with a depth of 3 to 12 feet.

Whether or not it really was the largest indoor pool is hard to prove, said Charles Tingley of the St. Augustine Historical Society.  “Any time you get into calling something the first, or the oldest, or the largest, you can get into trouble,” Tingley said. “But that’s the way they advertised it at the time, and it certainly was pretty big.”

The pool was also renown for its retractable glass ceiling, which was 45 feet above the pool.
“That was beautiful,” said Alice Sutherland, owner of the local tour company City Walks. “You could swim under the stars, but still be inside the building. It was quite glamorous.” 

Additionally, lighting was provided for the pool by Thomas Edison, who was a personal friend of Flager’s and a frequent visitor to St. Augustine, Sutherland said.

“My favorite story from the heyday of the pool is how Johnny Weissmuller, the Tarzan star, used to train there to learn trapeze,” Sutherland said. “I can just picture him swinging around in there, his Tarzan yell echoing off the marble walls.”

The pool actually still exists, but has not had water in it for a long time. It now houses a restaurant and several shops. There are several vintage photographs of the pool in the Cafe Alcazar, which uses the bulk of the pool’s area.

St. Augustine Record ©2012.  
Published on 04.29.2012

 

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