Swimming in Style: Five Vintage Pools You Can Visit Tomorrow

The above video comes from a post on Curbed last week about a film documentary of a special home designed by Richard Neutra called the Oyler house, built for a working-class government employee in 1959. The documentary, The Oyler House: Richard Neutra's Desert Retreat, is showing at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles until June 9. But that's not why we're here.

With summer on the horizon, I just want to focus on that three-minute clip about the amazingly unique swimming pool Oyler had carved into a single boulder on the property. It made me want to go swimming someplace new and different, and while that particular pool is private, there are plenty of opportunities in our state to take a dip with a mid-century modern vibe, both at municipal pools and those at motels or resorts. I've rounded up five of the best below, and would welcome suggestions for more in the comments.

The Richmond Plunge: Built in 1926, the Richmond Natatorium (its official name) was closed for nine years, and even slated for demolition, when the city ran out of money to carry out necessary seismic retrofits. But it reopened in 2010 as a stunning example of art deco municipal architecture, topped with a movie-marquee sign and adorned inside with a large mural. Public swimming is available daily. 

The Ohlson Recreation Center, Sea Ranch: Architect William Turnbull built the structures around the Olhson Recreation Center as a "wind dam," to keep chilling sea breezes off bare-skinned bathers, explains James Alinder in his book, The Sea Ranch. The iconic central tower with its angular paddle jutting out into the pool once held a slide, but that "proved too exhilerating for some." So now the monolith stands as decoration in this cult-favorite resort for mid-century modern fans.


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Anthony Stellon's 'Brotherhood of Man' (1968)

Martin Luther King Jr. Swimming Pool, San Francisco: Considered one of the hidden gems of San Francisco, the MLK Pool may look a spare, a raw-concrete rectangle measuring 25 yards by 25 meters (though the multicolored rafters give it a bit of verve). But it is home to Anthony Stellon's fantastic 1968 mosaic, Brotherhood of Man, which CA-Modern featured in our story Art Goes to Pieces. A visit to this sometimes-forgotten civic treasure allows one to take a dip and appreciate some great art, all in one trip. Hours and information available on the pool's website.

The Avalon Hotel, Beverly Hills: Originally built in 1949 as the Beverly Carlton, the Avalon Hotel underwent a makeover in 1999, incorporating two neighboring buildings in a mid-century modern renovation. Now, decked out in Eames furnishings, it bills itself as a classic, retro destination -- a place Marilyn Monroe once called home. The original hourglass-shaped pool represents the centerpiece of the action, abutting the Avalon's restaurant, Oliverio, where poolside dining is the thing to do.

Caliente Tropics, Palm Springs: A full-on tiki hotel must have a great pool, and the Caliente Tropics boasts one of the biggest in Palm Springs. Once part of a small, statewide chain of tiki-themed hotels, the Caliente Tropics has maintained its 1964-vintage Polynesian look, cultivating a clientele of tikiphiles and mid-century modernists. The grounds, dotted with tikis, torches, and steep rooflines, give off an air of exotic mystery that belies the friendly poolside scene.