Pools may be on the outs as splash pads become the cooling urban infrastructure of choice. But high dives—once a striking architectural centerpiece of all pools—are an especially endangered species.
Diving platforms were ubiquitous in the pools of yesteryear. Now, due to our overly litigious society, they only really appear where future Olympians train, and even then, they’re often barred from public access. On these final days of summer, let’s reminisce about a time when a pool was not complete without a glorious sculptural element beckoning aquatic thrill-seekers.
Fleishhacker Pool | San Francisco
When Fleishhacker Pool opened in 1925 near San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, it was a sparkling recreational jewel for the city. Not only was it the largest pool in the country, the water was heated, and featured this Victorian diving platform. After a storm destroyed the pipes which pumped in salt water from the ocean, the pool closed in 1971, and was used to store dirt and gravel until it was paved over in 2002 to make the San Francisco Zoo’s parking lot.
Hearst Castle Roman Pool | Cambria, California
The colonnaded Neptune Pool might be the more famous of the pools at Hearst Castle, but the indoor Roman Pool is the one with the high dive carved like a balcony into the ornate walls. Architect Julia Morgan worked with artist Camille Solon to design the murals, which are made from glass tiles fused with gold (just a little different from the tiles at your local public pool). You can get a peek at this pool on a tour of Hearst Castle, but you can’t dive in. Unless you’re this guy.
Fontainebleau Hotel | Miami
Designed by architect Morris Lapidus in 1950, the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach would become synonymous with the jet-setting elite (which is why it served as the location for the James Bold film Goldfinger). The hotel was filled with with sweeping examples of over-the-top glamour, including several pools, one with a cantilevered multi-level high dive as its centerpiece. The hotel’s been lovingly restored, but the high dive is no more.
Kursaal Trampolino | Ostia, Italy
Italian architect Attilio Lapadula designed this dramatic high dive as part of the Kursaal pool located on the Lido di Ostia near Rome. With its bright red and aqua accents, the platform became a signature part of the landscape as soon as it opened in 1950. The original was demolished in the 1970s but the platform has been faithfully reproduced, and you can swim at the pool during the summer months.
Desert Inn, Las Vegas
When the Desert Inn opened in Las Vegas in 1950, it became famous for two things: Its neon sign and its expansive pool. Hotelier Wilbur Clark added a high dive to compete with other resorts on the Strip. After undergoing a renovation in the late 1990s, the hotel was purchased by Steve Wynn, who demolished it in 2001 to make way for his Wynn and Encore resorts.
Tropicana | Weston-super-mare, England
When it opened in 1937, the striking Art Deco diving platform of the legendary pool on England’s Bristol Channel was known as the tallest in Europe. The diving board was demolished in 1982 and the pool closed in 2000. Different groups have rallied to redevelop the area, but recently, the pool became famous as the site of Banksy’s Dismaland exhibition.
Hotel Habana Riviera | Havana, Cuba
When it first opened in 1957, the Habana Riviera was a stunningly modernist gem on the Cuban coast. The pool and its swooping three-level high dive became a must-see destination for visiting Americans. The hotel remains practically untouched, with the diving platform intact, as well as the 75 cabanas surrounding the pool. You can stay there and swan dive just like they did a half-century ago.