Shoutout to the folks who knew where this was: Randi, Victoria, Caren, Lorrie, Barbara, Robyn, and Rachel. (Blake Hunter / City Cast Boise)
Summer’s in the air, and since the river’s still off-limits, a lot of us are thinking about pools. One of Boise’s most popular, the Natatorium, or the Nat, has a long and incredible history.
One reader, Barbara, remembers being a lifeguard and swimming teacher in the late 1960s: “These were the days of the high platform dive, coconut oil instead of sunscreen, standing for hours barefoot on concrete. It was cool! I also managed to pull a few kids out from the deep end when they literally got in way over their heads.”
But it goes much further back than the 60s. In the 1880s, a hot spring was discovered near what is now the Old Penitentiary. Prominent Boisean C.W. Moore built his own house on Warm Springs Avenue in 1891, which became the first house to be heated by geothermal energy in the nation.
The original Natatorium was built in the Moorish Revival style, which you don't see much of in Boise. (Idaho State Historical Society)
The Natatorium opened a year later with a 125-foot-long pool and multiple slides and rock features. That began several decades of popularity, and was key in the new era of 20th century Boise. The Natatorium was at the end of the trolley line that connected downtown and the East End, and also began a spree of geothermal heating construction that we continue to benefit from today.
However, being built with wooden beams, you can imagine that the condensation did some damage. In 1934, a beam collapsed, ending the first and most impressive form that the Nat would take.
People were originally suspicious of geothermal heating but public perception soon began to change, influenced by both the pool and C.W. Moore's own house just down the road using geothermal. (Idaho State Historical Society)
The pool’s since been moved outside, which is where it’s been for decades, with a Hydrotube and frequent swimming lessons.
Opening day is June 2, just a week and a half out!