April 12, 2018

The Swimming Pool That Transports You From Beverly Hills to Bedford Falls (Updated for 2021)

[Last updated 9/11/21 2:30 PM PT—info on preservation threat to mural added]

It took me a few years of living in Beverly Hills to know anything about its high school.

And it took me a few more to ever go visit and check it out.

Of course, when I finally did, I kicked myself...

...because it is a WPA-era, Streamline Moderne fantasy come true...

...with its undulating curves...

...and its refusal of 90-degree angles.

Though, I'll admit: That may not be true of the entire Beverly Hills High School campus.

I wouldn't actually know, because I only made it as far as the "Swim Gym."

Built as part of the New Deal—which helped the country recover from the Great Depression—the Swim Gym was added to the high school a dozen years after it was originally built in 1927.

Screenshot from It's a Wonderful Life (Public Domain)

It wasn't until the mid-1940s that it caught the attention of location scouts for It's a Wonderful Life...

Screenshot from It's a Wonderful Life (Public Domain)

...who set the dance sequence between Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed on its retractable basketball court...

...that opens up (much to their peril) to reveal a swimming pool.

Although humidity issues and the resulting water damage necessitated the floor to be replaced in October 2016 (since wood and water do not play nice with each other), the effect is still the same.

When you go, you can watch a basketball game or a water polo or wrestling match, or you can swim in the 25-yard pool yourself.

Or, you can walk among the upper stands and admire the WPA-era "Farm/Ranch" mural...

...painted in 1938 by artist Ernesto Scotti, an Argentinean painter from Buenos Aires...

...and unfortunately threatened by Beverly Hills Unified School District's plans to cover it. 

Not only is the Swim Gym a famous Hollywood film location and a civil engineering marvel, but it's also a pretty cool place to go swimming.

It feels grandiose and theatrical—no doubt because of the influence from architect Stiles O. Clements.

And you don't have to go to Beverly Hills High (since its students are mostly future celebrities or the offspring of celebrities) or even live in Beverly Hills.

Just bring cash to pay the lifeguard your swim fee.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: A Trolley Tour of Beverly Hills
Swimming in Circles Under a Wide Open Sky

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I also like to visit this place someday, lucky you, who got the chance to visit Beverly Hills.