10 great things at the Venetian Pool

SportsSwimmingBuilding MaterialMetal and MineralDonald TrumpJohnny WeissmullerEsther Williams

Sure, we're the hot spot for fancy-schmancy swimming pools.

Pools with waterfalls and whirlpools. Pools with flower gardens and crazy shapes.

But for a swimming hole like no other, don't miss the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables.

It's not just a lot of cold water. It's a real trip.

The coral rock pool boasts the same Mediterranean look as the city with its loggias and soaring towers and terra cotta tiles. Kids splash beneath a waterfall pouring over a rocky promontory. They disappear into mysterious caves carved from the rock. They scamper across a Venetian-style bridge that leads to an artificial island, dotted with palm trees.

So hats off to George Merrick, the land promoter who created Coral Gables and the man behind the pool.

He didn't think small and plain. He thought big and beautiful.

We give you 10 good reasons to visit this very cool pool.

• It started as an ugly rock pit, useful only for the coral rock that helped build early-day Coral Gables. But watch out for the jutting limestone above the pool's sides. It's pretty but craggy and it can scratch!

• The pool, inspired by Venice lagoons, was finished in 1924. There's even a Venetian-style bridge that connects to a palm tree-studded concrete island where you can lounge on lawn chairs. (Rent 'em for $5 a day).

• Snakes in the caves! A few old-timers say that snakes occasionally hung around the pool's two coral caves. Today, you won't find anything slithering there except kids, trying to disappear in those caves, which jut back about five feet.

• A major player in the design was artist Denman Fink. Maybe a little nepotism here. He was an uncle of the city's founder, George Merrick, but give him kudos for style. The original design contained a waterfall with built-in ledges where you can still sit and let the water rush by.

• Decades before South Beach grabbed all the headlines, Venetian Pool was celebrity bait. Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame swam there. Ditto, Esther Williams, a water wonder woman who also made movies that showcased her toned body in bathing suits. Today, the pool grounds, which can be rented for private affairs, are more popular for weddings and private parties.

• Back in the day, Donald Trump would have loved this place. Hundreds of bathing beauties, as they were called in olden days, strutted their stuff on a specially constructed walkway to entertain visiting honchos. Today the walkway is gone; ditto the diving board that rested atop a rocky promontory. Instead, there's something even better: a waterfall.

• The pool is on the National Register of Historic Places, one of the few, if not the only public swimming pool, to make the list. More impressive to kids is the large sandy beach, created for their playing pleasure. It juts off one side of the pool.

• Years ago, this gigantic pool was a water hog. In the summer and every other day in the winter, its 820,000 gallons of spring water were pumped into the pool, then dumped into the local waterway. By the late `80s, that wasted too much water. Now it's recycled via injection wells that shoot it back into the earth, then pumps bring it up again.

• The water comes from underground artesian wells and is c-c-c-cold -- about 76 degrees. That's partly because the water is changed daily in summer so the sun can't warm it over time.

• There's a reason the pool's water is changed so often -- there's no filtering system. In practical terms that means no one younger than 3 is allowed. The theory: Kids 3 and older can "hold it" until reaching the bathroom. As for everyone else: Mind your manners: Don't use the pool as a bathroom!

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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