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University of Rochester’s Lost Swimming Pool

February 4th, 2013

A little known abandoned swimming pool at University of Rochester. [IMAGE: Chris Seward]
“It’s one of the eeriest, strangest places I’ve ever been.” That’s what Chris Seward said of this little known spot on the University of Rochester campus when he took these photos. The Merle Spurrier Gymnasium external link opened in 1955 as part of a women’s center and the Susan B. Anthony women’s dormitory. Spurrier housed this 25-yard-long, six lane swimming pool. According to a 2004 Campus Times article external link, the pool has been closed ever since the women’s gym facilities were moved to the Robert B. Goergen Athletic Center in 1982…

A little known abandoned swimming pool at University of Rochester. [IMAGE: Chris Seward]
After the gym was moved, Spurrier became an alternative exam location for large classes. When exams weren’t taking place, the pool became a convenient storage facility for all the extra desk chairs.

This 360º interactive panorama was created by another local photographer, Tony Di Pietro external link. Click the “fullscreen” button and give it a whirl. Tony tells me those lights inside the pool were actually reclaimed search lights from WWII. The pool also has little windows in the sides that allowed the swimmers to be viewed underwater.

The pool deck has also been used as a home for props from Strong Auditorium. As a result, many odds and ends can be found poolside, such as old-fashioned television sets, couches and brooms. [IMAGE: Chris Seward]
The on-campus technology store, University IT Computer Sales, has made use of the pool deck for storage of large boxes and various other extra tables and equipment. The pool deck has also been used as a home for props from Strong Auditorium. As a result, many odds and ends can be found poolside, such as old-fashioned television sets, couches and brooms.

A little known abandoned swimming pool at University of Rochester. [IMAGE: Chris Seward]
The chairs and desks are not used much any more. Today, the building is home to the University Progam of Movement & Dance, and practice rooms for the music department.

At the shallow end the desks are lined up very neatly. Then at the deep end it becomes an enormous junk pile. [IMAGE: Chris Seward]
It’s kind of funny how, at the shallow end, the desks are lined up very neatly. Then at the deep end it becomes an enormous junk pile. I can just imagine the poor dude tasked with moving all this stuff into the pool, working late into the night… He was probably like, “ah fuck it.”

Sometime after these feet appeared, the University locked the space up pretty tight. [IMAGE: Chris Seward]
Sometime after these feet appeared all over the floor and walls, the University locked the space up pretty tight. Personally, I think the feet are a nice touch. They really tie the room together.

When the Susan B. Anthony dorm was built, tunnels were opened between the residence hall and the gymnasium, providing easy, warm access for the women. [IMAGE: Chris Seward]
When the Susan B. Anthony dorm was built, tunnels were opened between the residence hall and the gymnasium, providing easy, warm access for the women. Maybe those are the footprints of Susie’s ghost? Even suffragettes enjoy a refreshing dip now and again.

UPDATE: I’m getting a lot of people asking if this pool is still there. Yes. Still there. And everyone I’ve spoken to says it’s in the same condition. The panoramic photo was shot in 2011.

UPDATE: Allen C. via Facebook, says “Unfortunately I witnessed—only within the last few weeks—the movement of all these Wakefield desks to dumpster after dumpster. Its empty now.”

Thanks To…

Photos shared with permission from Chris Seward, 2010. You can view Chris’ entire Flickr set here external link

360º panoramic photo external link taken by Tony Di Pietro, 2011. You can view more of Tony’s work here external link

Inquiries made to University of Rochester were not returned by the time this story was published. Thanks to Tony and Ryan Green for helping me pull together the details.

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 4th, 2013 at 7:54 am and is filed under Art + Culture, Rochester History, Rochester Images, Urban Exploration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Responses to “University of Rochester’s Lost Swimming Pool”

  1. Reminds me of the pool at Aquinas which was never used as a pool. When I was at AQ it was used as a music room. The tiered ‘seats’ were used as a study room.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Donate those desks and chars to less fortunate schools, libraries, and home schoolers!

  3. @Rebecca, that’s a good idea. Let UofR know and maybe something good will happen!

  4. Wow. What a great post! So fascinating. Thanks for sharing…

  5. Jimmy says:

    these photos should be submitted to Nat Geo’s your shot. The room in its condition is intriguing

  6. RaChaCha says:

    This is way cool! Lotsa fascinating “hidden” stuff around the U!

  7. Dan Gorman says:

    Actually, they’ve since turned the entry area (up to the boarded off side door) into a music practice space, which is quite nice. It’s unfortunate that so much of that space still goes unused, though.

  8. This was a hot topic on Reddit today (in the “Abandoned Porn” subreddit). Some interesting comments… http://www.reddit.com/r/AbandonedPorn/comments/17vdeo/abandoned_pool_at_the_university_of_rochester/

  9. Diana says:

    Hey are you sure that the desks aren’t used? Back in the mid to late 90s they used to be set up in the old gym for exams. My freshman year the women’s and men’s swim team set up the chairs for the fall semester finals. I’ve stood in that pool hoisting desks out. That is probably why they are nicely lined up in the shallow end.

  10. @Diana, So you were one of the “poor dudes” (or dudettes) who got stuck moving all the desks in and out of there? That’s kind of funny.

    They were used on occasion, as you say, for exams. But for at least the past 8-10 years they haven’t been used much. That’s what I gleaned from the 2004 Campus Times article (all mentioned above).

    “After the gym was moved, Spurrier became an alternative exam location for large classes. When exams weren’t taking place, the pool became a convenient storage facility for all the extra desk chairs.”

  11. Ben Brown says:

    I was a member of a group called ‘No Jackets Required’, and we actually heavily used this space (with permission of the school) for 2 – 3 years as a music rehearsal space. I have a ton of photos of bands practicing in this space, our couch and TV set up where we played old NES games between rehearsals, us climbing around in it, etc. etc. The fire marshall eventually came by and saw how dangerous it was and we had to turn in the key, but I’d be happy to share more info about the pool for those several years we used it!

  12. There is an abandoned (actually unfinished) Rochester pool on the 6th floor of Kodak’s Theater Building (B28). It is on Ridge Rd in Kodak Park. I know of two stories why it wasn’t completed. Kodak’s story is that it wasn’t finished because there was an abundance of pools in the Rochester area. An urban ledgend is that there was a miscalculation when the building was designed resulting in the building superstructure being inadequate to support the water. I believe the first story but the second one is more fun.

    It remained unfinished when I last saw it in 2003. It had rough orange masonary walls and rough concrete floor. The unused gray glazed tiles were stacked in the spectators’ balcony. The pool, with the slanted floor, was equiped with a wheeled 20 foot tall light box that was used to inspect and retouch Coloramas for Grand Central Station. The pool deck was widened with L shaped brackets to over hang the edge of the pool and a green rubber surfaced running track was there for many years. I don’t remember how many laps to the mile, my estimate is about 24.

  13. Rita Butzer says:

    I was in the UR Pep Band in 1986 (until 1988?). I have memories of practicing somewhere in the gym, thought it was here, but I don’t see the bleachers? Hmmm…

  14. Nick says:

    I directed the Midnight Ramblers a cappella group at UR in ’08 and ’09, and we had a blast using the weird resonance in the pool to make crazy vocal sound effects for our studio albums (recorded in the nearby practice rooms). I miss this pool…

  15. Joel says:

    Great scene for a movie. Would be an interesting project for a local architect to determine what might be done with this space.

  16. Mekashi says:

    I don’t understand how a place still with people, have an abandoned pool. I mean there are still people in this university…..that’s really weird

  17. John says:

    I don’t know how long ago I bought a collector’s set of Rochester bus tokens. I also have a school token that I happen to keep from riding the bus to school in the 50s.After I was able to buy a car I think I may have ridden the bus about three times.
    I think the newspaper sold the replica tokens as a fund raiser for something.

  18. Andrea says:

    That makes me sad that they threw all of those desks away. How wasteful!

  19. ron bajorek says:

    It amazes me that the school wouldn’t make an effort to find a home for these desks. These would be welcome many places

  20. Liz says:

    I agree with rebecca, andrea, and ron bajorek!! If these wooden desks were in still good condition to be used, I’m sure many organizations would have been willing to take them as well as the plastic/metal desks. What happened to the cute red wagon? Tis shame :(

  21. Chelle says:

    I agree it would be great to see these desks and chairs donated. I love the photos and the orange feet are awesome. I’m from Australia. These photos always inspire me :)


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