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Astoria Pool is one of the largest and most popular swimming facilities in the country. At 54,450 square feet and 330 feet in length, the main pool at Astoria Pool is the largest swimming pool in New York City.
Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, an avid swimmer himself, recognized the importance of aquatic recreation and launched a campaign to open 11 new pools throughout the city during the summer of 1936, intending to improve public safety. The labor and construction came from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), whose administrator Harry Hopkins described the pool in Queens as, “The finest in the world.” Astoria Pool was a model for the other ten pools. It has been said that Moses intended it to be the grandest of the new pools because it had the best view of the Triborough Bridge, which was completed in the same year. All 11 pools remain community treasures to this day.
Perhaps the most exciting events in the history of Astoria Pool were the Olympic Trials for the U.S. Swim and Diving Teams. The pool’s grand opening was July 4, 1936, and it was on this day that the finals of the Olympic swim tryouts began. This remarkable contest returned to Astoria in 1964. The two fountains located on the east end of the pool (which now spray water 25 feet in the air) served as Olympic torches which burned throughout the events in 1936 and 1964.
Astoria Pool has always been a favorite in the neighborhood, inviting community involvement in creating pool events. Each summer, thousands of New Yorkers flocked to Astoria Park to cool off and exercise. In the early years, it would cost 20 cents to swim in Astoria Pool (and 10 cents for children on weekends). In the early 1940s, a group of boys in the neighborhood who were devoted swimmers got together to perform on Wednesday nights at Astoria Pool. The Aquazanies wore costumes and treated audiences to choreographed swimming acts with music, backdrops, props, and on occasion, even dogs. Their routines were always inventive and never failed to showcase their unique talent as swimmers and divers. One of the participants was Whitney Hart, who became a professional diver and was eventually inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame.
Today, Astoria Pool and all of New York’s outdoor pools are free and open to the public. The exemplary design of the pool complex remains largely unchanged. The main pool was planned to hold 3000 people, and flanking the pool, bleachers stand atop both the Art Deco bathing pavilion (with facilities for 6200 swimmers) and the water filtration house. With its streamlined and simple forms, decorative glass block, deco-style steel railings, and Art Moderne style ticket booth, Astoria Pool is one of the most architecturally remarkable public recreational facilities in the country.
Directions to Astoria Park
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