Los Baños del Mar Pool
It was in 1873 that Santa Barbara got its first bathhouse, a public place to change clothes, rent a bathing suit (for a quarter) and take a bath. Two years later, the proprietors added the Ocean View House to the site, a facility where hot and cold salt water baths cost 50 cents. Back then, a strict dress code was enforced. All bathers had to be covered from the shoulders to the knees.
In 1878 a winter storm toppled the facility. Other bathhouses were built in its place. By the turn of the century, the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce was looking for a stronger draw for tourism.
The year 1901 saw the opening of the first Los Baños del Mar facility, a Moorish-style building that housed two saltwater pools. The water, which was steam-heated by the same turbines that powered the city's trolleys, was changed every three hours. The site also featured a confectionary, a bowling alley, a bandstand, a billiard parlor, a roof garden and 150 changing rooms, making Los Baños del Mar one of the most popular spots in turn-of-the century Santa Barbara.
In 1913, the community once again lost its gathering place, this time to a devastating fire. But the city didn't want to be without its pool, so despite the fact that insurance only covered one-fifth of the loss, the Edison Co. constructed a new Roman-style bathhouse (Los Baños del Mar) for the city a year later. The new facility featured a 64 x 35 foot plunge with a diving raft, and sported white tile and white concrete pillars.
As if singled out for trouble, the site was again destroyed; this time in 1925 when it was hit by an earthquake that left the building badly damaged and greatly reduced its use. Another attraction, Cabrillo Pavilion, was then built nearby, seemingly spelling the end of Los Baños del Mar.
But in 1937, the city, armed with a Public Works Administration grant, once again invested in the site, this time building an outdoor pool facility that opened in 1939. The building is a combination of Art Moderne and Hispanic architectural elements, making for a perfect blend with the city's famed red tile roofs.
Spared destruction by fire or quake, the third Los Baños del Mar made it through 56 years of use (without renovation) before its life was threatened by the wheels of progress and then saved by the people of the community when in 1992 the Friends of Los Baños del Mar Pool was founded to preserve Los Baños del Mar as an historic landmark. Under the direction of Cheri Savage, over one million dollars was raised to preserve and renovate the pool. Los Baños del Mar Pool's current facility is located on the same property as the original facility.
(with permission from Pool & Spa News, Oct 2, 1996)
Thank you to Dick Coleman, publisher for Pool & Spa News, a Hanley Wood, LLC, company, for his gracious sentiment and support in allowing The Friends of Los Baños Pool the use of the magazine's material.
Read here how close the pool came to being demolished and becoming part of the Santa Barbara Harbor's parking lot:
Los Angeles Times January 12, 1992