Underneath the parking lot of the San Francisco Zoo lies one of the city’s great lost landmarks: a massive saltwater swimming pool - possibly the largest in the world at the time.
Designed to accommodate 10,000 swimmers and 6.5 million gallons of saltwater, the enormous public pool was built by Bay Area local philanthropist and city Parks Commissioner Herbert Fleishhacker in 1924. Water was pumped in from the ocean nearby, and, amazingly, was heated to a delightful 65-75 degrees.
Despite initial popularity, and creative use by the military for aquatic drills during the war years, years of neglect led to a slow decline, and in 1971 storms caused damage that would eventually lead to its closure later the same year.
At the edge of the pool stood its beautiful pool house, which for years after the pool disappeared under the concrete of the parking lot in 1999, remained as a silent and graffiti covered reminder of what once was.
Sitting behind fencing, abandoned and with the roof slowly caving in, in its last years the poolhouse was mostly populated by raccoons and the occasional bold squatter, while hope remained in some quarters for a restoration before it was too late.
Sadly, on December 1, 2012 fire broke out at the abandoned building and destroyed any hope of salvation. Demolition after the fire left only the tiny fragment now remaining.
Know Before You Go
There is no direct access to the archways, they are surrounded by a chainlink fence with barbed wire. The portals can be viewed from the San Francisco Zoo Customer Parking lot. The structure is across from the zoo's main entrance and to the right.