The Reservoir



State Legislators winked at the "Reservoir."
State Legislators winked at the "Reservoir."



Actually, the Reservoir was the University of Arizona's first swimming pool; State Legislators knew about it, but winked the truth away.

According to Sarah Gresham Perper, the College of Architecture's Archivist, the reservoir was built in 1916 and was designed by San Diego architect John B. Lyman.

But according to Phyllis Ball, of the UA Library's Special Collections, "Records say Professor Roy S. King, of Mechanical Engineering Department, was the designer and supervisor of its construction."

According to Lew Place, his father, Roy Place, worked with Lyman on the plans. "I know that Roy designed the pagoda which held the dressing rooms, and the decking," Lew Place says.

According to the Arizona Wildcat, the reservoir, or swimming pool, was dedicated on Monday, May 8, 1916, at 9 a.m. with UA President Rufus B. von KleinSmid in charge. Von KleinSmid said at the time the pool was built from old plans found by the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. (Perhaps those plans were the ones by Roy S. King. Old records can become confusing.)

In his speech, von KleinSmid outlined rules and regulations for the pool's use "with emphasis on caution and care." Anyone who wanted to use the pool- students, faculty, or alumni - had to pay $1 per year as an entrance fee.

The Wildcat said that enthusiastic cheers followed the president's opening remarks. Roy King, of the Mechanical Engineering Department, was cheered along with von KleinSmid by the assembled Swimmers.

The pool cost $3,371.25, broken down into $1,736.06 for materials and $1,635.19 for labor.

The State Legislature appropriated the money with winks between members who were told that the pool was a reservoir for watering shrubbery and grass around the university's buildings.

Actually, it was used as a reservoir as well as an outdoor natatorium. It was the source of water for all of the grass and trees then existing on the university grounds. The maintenance and grounds people installed a piping system which would be filled by pumps from the reservoir. All the lawns around the buildings were diked and the pipes filled the land inside the dikes with water. The dikes were a headache to architects and builders because they had to reroute the piping system to serve new landscaped areas around the new buildings.


Roy Place stretches out at UA's first swimming pool.
Roy Place stretches out at UA's first swimming pool.



To continue the subterfuge - that the reservoir was not a swimming pool-the 1916-17 annual report of the Board of Regents refers to it as a reservoir for irrigation and fire protection. Maps of the university for the following two years referred to it as a reservoir, but the regents finally admitted that it was a project "available as a swimming pool and adds greatly to the comfort and pleasure of the student body."

The popularity of the pool increased. Swimmers included students, faculty members and their immediate families, and members of the Alumni Association. For such a privilege individuals underwent a physical examination and secured a doctor's certificate, plus paying the usage fee. A tag was issued to those eligible to use the pool and it was to be worn whenever the owner was in the pool.

Regulations insisted that "only approved costumes may be worn" and that a bathrobe must cover the costumes while the wearer was going to and from the pool. Upon examining pictures of early-day users, particularly female ones, one can see that the "costumes" were indeed modest. The bikini had not been invented until 1946.

Female students used the pool more than men. That may have been because men considered swimming not "macho" and certainly not indicative of masculine athletic ability. It may have been, too, that the bikini had not yet been invented. The women swimmers offered to teach anyone who wished to learn to swim. It is to be wondered that more male students did not offer themselves as swim-guineas.

The reservoir is no longer used as a swimming pool. It is covered with a low roof and serves, in truth, as a reservoir exclusively. It still supplies water to the dikes around the building using them.

Use of the pool in the old days was not necessarily restricted to students, faculty and their families, and alumni. Roy Place acquired permission for him and his family to use the facility. Lew Place learned to swim there. His father tossed him off the diving board at the deep end and stalked away.

The first swimming pool is located just east of the Engineering Building, formerly called the Mines and Engineering Building, north of the present Student Union and west of the Aeronautics Building.

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