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Whither the Adams House Pool?

By Anna D. Wilde

Much to the chagrin of some residents, there are plans to reincarnate the famed Adams House pool--but without the water.

A-year-and-a-half after the pool was closed down in March 1990, students and administrators in the house are in the midst of a debate over what use to make of the traditional site of skinny-dipping and late-night partying.

Many students have made their position clear--they want to see the site, which has been called the home of "food, folks, fun, love, debauchery and happiness," reopened for its original use. But discussion has surfaced among some College officials, quite favorable to the idea of converting the space into a theater.

The theater could be either temporary, intended as a stopgap while pool repairs go ahead, or a permanent performing space for Adams House, according to Assistant Tutor Sean Lynn-Jones. He says the prohibitive cost of the pool's restoration--estimated at between $100,000 and $250,000--is the main reason for the plan.

"The roof is starting to fall in," he says. "It was braced up temporarily, but the wood is starting to rot. The pool itself leaks, and there are some cracks in the walls."

"To the best of my knowledge, Harvard College is not likely to pay the full costs of transforming it into what it was," he says.

Although the pool does not in its present form resemble a typical mainstage, the site actually does have a history of dramatic productions. The most famous of these, Peter Sellars's staging of Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra," took place in the late seventies and was filmed on a barge floating on the water.

Save the Pool!

Despite the theatrical tradition, most students in the house want to bring back a different pastime--swimming. To combat the theater plan, Thomas M. Lauderdale '92, co-chair of the Adams House committee, is forming a group called "Save Our Swimming Pool."

"It was shut supposedly because of the necessity for repairs," he says. "But the real reason is that they don't want students to party in the pool, which is a viable concern."

Lauderdale says his group would aim to "maintain safety standards while providing a good outlet for fun and frolic."

The pool has been closed since March 1990, when it was discovered that more than 75 students had been partying there in the dark at 3 a.m. with no life guards. The shutdown was only supposed to last until April 8, but the pool has been locked ever since.

In Mourning

Adams House residents are in mourning at the thought of losing the pool and speak strongly against the theater plan.

"I'm without a doubt in my mind," says Hannah J. Feldman '92. "It was opened as a swimming hole, not a play hole."

The theater plan is a "big nightmare," says Lauderdale. "There are too many master Thespians running around Harvard already. This pool is unique."

The pool does have a long and colorful history. It was built in the early 1900s for Westmorely Court, one of a group of private dormatories referred as the "Gold Coast" dorms because of their wealthy undergraduates. Numerous well-known Harvard graduates, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt '04 and John Lithgow '67, were among users of the pool.

The pool's history also explains one of its more "infamous" characteristics: its use as a skinny-dipping site.

"There was always nude swimming in the pool, from the time when it was all-male and suits were optional," says Lynn-Jones, "and the tradition endured right up until it shut."

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