Diving In At The Natatorium


40+ years after the last swim | Photo: Bradley Maule

40+ years after the last swim | Photo: Bradley Maule

In the deepest recesses of the Fairmount Water Works, water’s time for recreation came and went fast. The Water Works, having operated from 1812 through 1909, was a first-of-its-kind municipal filtration system that not only provided Philadelphia with clean drinking water, but also a picturesque public space romanticized by the likes of Currier & Ives and Charles Dickens. After the City opened newer and more technologically advanced water facilities, it closed the Water Works and the Philadelphia Aquarium opened in 1911 in its place. The Aquarium lasted until 1962, after which time a portion of it was converted into a swimming pool, with funding coming from Philly’s royal family, the Kellys.

With three lanes, the pool was used by the Kelly family for Olympic training and later given over to the public, the first integrated pool in the City. It stayed in use until it was ravaged by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. While much of the Water Works has been restored—namely in the Interpretive Center and the Water Works restaurant—the Kelly Natatorium has itself sat vacantly. That’s where Hidden City is stepping in to activate the space.

As our ninth confirmed site for the Hidden City Festival 2013, the Kelly Natatorium will be opened to the public for the first time in over 40 years. In the space, art collective Camp Little Hope will create the Bibotorium, an interpretation of a 1920s proposal to create an educational saloon.

For more on this site and project and to contribute, visit the Festival web site HERE. For a preview of the space, click any of the photos below to launch a short photo essay.

About the author

Bradley Maule is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and the creator of Philly Skyline. He's a native of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and he's hung his hat in Shippensburg, Germantown, G-Ho, Fishtown, Portland OR, Brewerytown, and now Mt. Airy. He just can't get into Twitter, but he's way into Instagram @mauleofamerica.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
After 45 Years, Brandywine Workshop Still Thinking Creatively

After 45 Years, Brandywine Workshop Still Thinking Creatively

November 20, 2017  |  Vantage

It looks quiet, but the old 19th century firehouse at 730 South Broad Street, home of Brandywine Workshop, is buzzing with art and adaptation. Contributor Karen Chernick takes us behind the blue-green doors. > more

Cret Exhibition Captures Vibrations Of The City

Cret Exhibition Captures Vibrations Of The City

November 17, 2017  |  Vantage

Illustrator Ben Leech enlivens the dying art of architectural drawing with his exhibition, "Cret Illustrated: Revisiting a Philadelphia Icon in Sketches," at Woodlands Cemetery. Michael Bixler has the preview > more

Task Force Inches Closer To Delivering

Task Force Inches Closer To Delivering “State Of Preservation” Report

November 16, 2017  |  News

Mayor Kenney's Historic Preservation Task Force convened today for their fourth official meeting. Starr Herr-Cardillo reports > more

Give $$$, Get a Cool Perk: 2017 Campaign

November 13, 2017  |  Uncategorized

  Now more than ever, independent journalism needs the support of readers like you. DONATE to the Hidden City Daily today and receive something nifty in return. > more

Long-Forgotten Furness Building Discovered in Logan

Long-Forgotten Furness Building Discovered in Logan

November 13, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow unearths a little-known Frank Furness design at the old Messiah Univeralist Home in North Philly > more

Historic Kensington Banks

Historic Kensington Banks “For Sale,” But Not Really

November 10, 2017  |  News

The saga of two historic banks struggling for survival under the EL continues. GroJLart has the update > more