Red Hook Recreation Area

Red Hook Pool

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

For outdoor pool details, including hours and rules, please visit our Free Outdoor Pools page.

What was here before?

The tract of land encompassing the pool is landfill established in the 19th century for an industrial railroad depot. The land sat vacant for decades serving as an ad hoc baseball field from 1915 to 1929. In 1934, 15 acres were turned over to the Parks Department to develop recreational facilities.  At that time the area was largely an industrial zone, supported by a working-class residential community serving the waterfront shipping industry nearby.

How did this site become a pool?

The summer of 1936, deep in the Great Depression, broke local heat records. Red Hook Pool was one of eleven immense outdoor public pools the Parks Department opened that summer.  The heroically scaled pools project was financed by the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), as part of a massive effort to alleviate adverse health conditions and provide safe recreation in predominantly working-class communities.

The pools were not just huge but also examples of state-of-the-art engineering and fine design. Each pool had separate swimming, diving and wading areas, perimeter bleachers, and bathhouses whose locker rooms served as gyms during non-summer months. Led by architect Aymar Embury II and landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, the planning team produced a series of distinct complexes, each one sensitive to its site and topography. Massive filtration systems, heating units, and even underwater lighting provided a more controlled bathing experience than the often treacherous and polluted waterways in which the City’s masses had traditionally swum. The palette of pools building materials was mainly inexpensive brick, concrete and cast stone, but the styles ranged from Romanesque Revival to Art Deco.

Red Hook Pool measures 330 by 130 feet and was designed by Joseph L. Hautman to accommodate 4,460 bathers at a time. The opening dedication on August 17, 1936 was described by the New York Times as “Red Hook’s event of the year,” reportedly attended by a vast crowd of 40,000 people. With the demolition in the 1990s of a nearby stadium from the same era, three cast stone sporting reliefs from that facility were salvaged and inserted into the pool-facing interior wall.  The pool, along with the Red Hook Play Center, was designated an official New York City landmark in 2008.

What is this pool named for?

The pool takes its name from the neighborhood. Dutch colonial settlers in New Amsterdam in the 1630s named this spit of land of red clay projecting into upper New York bay Roode Hoek, later anglicized to Red Hook.

Directions to Red Hook Recreation Area

Know Before You Go

Red Hook Recreation Area

We're reconstructing the running track and converting soccer fields 3-5 and ballfields 1-4 from natural turf to synthetic turf. Starting July 6, 2021, this site, including the track, will be closed to the public for the duration of construction (approximately through spring 2023). Please visit our Capital Project Tracker to learn more about this project.
Anticipated Completion: Spring 2023

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