A Historical Look at the White House Pools and Spas

President Ford swims at the White House
President Ford swims at the White House. David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images
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    White House Water Features

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    The White House reflection pool at night. Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The United States' second president, John Adams, was the first to occupy the White House. Since then, each presidential family has left its mark on the outdoor living spaces of the executive mansion, whether it's been through planting trees and gardens or adding swimming pools and outdoor sculptures. At various times, the White House has had indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a hot tub, reflection pools, fountains, ponds and other water features.

    So, how many pools has the White House...MORE had? Does the hot tub installed during the Clinton administration still exist? Is FDR's indoor therapy pool long-gone? And what's this we've heard recently about the Jonas Brothers autographing the wall of a White House pool that also bears other famous signatures? This slideshow sets straight a few questions and provides a historical look at the water worlds of the White House, Camp David, and other presidential retreats, along with the people who enjoyed these features and amenities during their stay.

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    Liberty Makes a Splash

    Ford Was an Avid Swimmer A water dog like a golden retriever was the perfect breed for the Fords, who loved to swim. Library of Congress

    President Gerald and First Lady Betty Ford were the first and only First Family to build an outdoor swimming pool at the White House. Ford was athletic and aimed for daily workouts in the pool.

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    Nixon's Pool at the Western White House

    nixon by pool san clemente
    Nixon sits by his pool at his home in San Clemete. Atkins, Oliver F., 1916-1977, Photographer/National Archives

    When they wanted to get some R&R, President Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat, flew to La Casa Pacifica, their West Coast Spanish-style compound in the charming South Orange County seaside city of San Clemente, California. Here, you can see a true Southern California Midcentury-style backyard with square concrete pavers and an inground swimming pool.

    This photo was taken on July 9, 1971. Note the no-frills, collapsible aluminum lounge chair upon which Nixon is reading the newspaper. The...MORE matching patio set in the background is nicely upholstered and is probably made by one of the more high-end outdoor furniture manufacturers of the period, like Brown-Jordan or Tropitone.

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    Mural for Kennedy

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    Artist paints mural surrounding indoor pool at White House. Robert L. Knudson/National Archives

    President John F. Kennedy's father, Joseph P. Kennedy, commissioned artist Bernard Lamotte to paint this scenic mural on a wall of the swimming pool that was built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mirrors adorned the opposite wall of the indoor swimming area, which reflected the mural. Kennedy would often go for a swim after lunch​.

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    Pond at Camp David

    President Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev Two world leaders in conversation near a naturalistic pond at Camp David in Frederick County, Maryland. NARA: RN-WHPO / White House Photo Office Collection

    President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev talking in the relaxed, mountain-retreat setting of Camp David on June 20, 1973. The carved log bench can be seen in another photo taken a few years later President Jimmy Carter.

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    Fish Pond

    The Children's Garden: A Great Place to Escape or Climb a Tree The fish pond in the White House Children's Garden is roped off during public tours for safety reasons.

    First Lady Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson was an avid gardener and nature lover. She oversaw the creation of the White House Children's Garden, which has apple trees for climbing, wrought-iron chairs, native plants and flagstone pathways. In recent years, water-loving plants have been added, including dwarf papyrus and fiber-optic grass (Isolepis cernua).

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    Poolside Peace Talks

    Sundown: Sadat and Carter During the Camp David Accords President Sadat, left, and President Carter talking at dusk by the Camp David Pool. NARA / JC-WHSP: Carter White House Photographs Collection

    The casual redwood deck furniture with mustard and olive-colored flower-print vinyl cushions give no hint of the historical discussions that took place upon them in September 1978. For two weeks at the tranquil setting of Camp David, President Jimmy Carter mediated the negotiations between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979. This was the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab nation.

    If you look...MORE closely, you can see part of the swimming pool's handrails and diving board on the far right, next to Carter. Note the orange ashtray on the redwood table in the foreground -- it was standard to place plastic ashtrays on outdoor side tables to accommodate smokers poolside or on a deck or patio. Also, by the late 1970s, people were becoming more socially conscious about their smoking habits, and often smoked outside. Visit a flea market or yard sale, and chances are you'll find a plethora of Mid-century plastic patio ashtrays.

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    Frozen Swimming Pool at Camp David

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    Camp David's in-ground swimming pool shown during the off-season; Nixon Administration. RN-WHPO: White House Photo Office Collection (Nixon Administration) / NARA

    This photo was taken February 9, 1971, and Camp David's in-ground swimming pool is shown in fine, frozen form. It's a lovely scene, nonetheless, and shows the curvilinear, figure-8 shape of the large pool.

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    President Johnson Relaxes in the Pool

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    LBJ multitasks with his dog and grandson while relaxing in a presidential pool in Texas. LBJ Library Photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto / D1493-15

    Showing his talent for multitasking, a sunburned President Johnson cools off in the swimming pool with two of his favorites: mutt Yuki and Patrick Lyndon Nugent, the President's grandson.

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    Round Pool Fountains

    At the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn The South Lawn round pool and fountains, with the Washington Monument in the background. Library of Congress

    At this particular Easter Egg Roll, the fountains were going at full blast.

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    Harrison Reflection Pool

    Neoclassical Landscape Design A peaceful garden pool which probably no longer exists. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston / Library of Congress

    This beautiful reflection pool is reminiscent of the rectangular ornamental pools dating back to the Roman gardens depicted in the wall paintings of Pompeii. Symmetrical plantings surrounding the pool, as shown here, are also a hallmark of classical landscape design.

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    Swimming With the Press

    Ford Tests the New White House Pool President Ford had this outdoor swimming pool built at the White House in 1975. Photo Courtesy of National Archives

    President Gerald Ford tries out the new White House in-ground swimming pool while the press covers his every move. An avid swimmer, Ford would sometimes conduct press conferences while getting his daily workout in the pool.

    The pool was built during Ford's administration. A solar blanket was installed during President Jimmy Carter's period in the White House.