Diving into St. Mary's History

St. Mary's Original Natatorium

The finest swimming pool in San Antonio at the turn of the twentieth century was right here at St. Mary's University.

On April 10, 1895, St. Louis College broke ground for the original natatorium and excavation began. The new acreage for St. Louis College, came with its own waterworks, electric light plant, and dairy. The water for the new natatorium would be pumped from two, eight-inch artesian wells, each 710 feet deep that came with the property.

At this time ,the property consisted of 75 acres that included the campus, park, gardens, and the pasture. Ten acres of that was the center of campus which created a quadrangle and it included the Chemical Laboratory, the Domestics’ Residence, the Powerhouse, and the Natatorium. The Natatorium was located west of the cemetery and in proximity east of the chicken yard. The pool measured 30 by 60 feet, a depth of 4 to 6.5 feet, and surrounded by 50 dressing booths. The pool could hold a capacity of 60,000 gallons of water. On July 4, 1895, the pool was pumped with two feet of water and later that evening St. Louis College brothers invited brothers from other communities to take an evening swim with them.

The Natatorium’s first five years, from 1895 to 1899, faced a series of issues with the pool related to repairs and maintenance. First, they discovered several cracks in the bottom of the pool. The water was emptied, and repairs began on the defective tiling at the bottom. On May 13, 1898, Mr. Nelson (a layman) inspected the natatorium and stated he would repair it temporarily with asphalt. Mr. Nelson stated, “I have guaranteed you a natatorium you’ll have one, even if I must build a new one.” On May 18, 1898, Nelson repaired with asphalt. A year later in 1899, there were new issues with the previous asphalt applied. The original asphalt was not mixing well with a harder asphalt that was applied later to fill in the cracks at the bottom of the pool. The repairs were done poorly.

From the turn of the twentieth century into the early 1920s, the Natatorium served as a site for much of the University’s entertainment. Current students, alumni, and the Marianists hosted festivities on campus.. Following each event, the natatorium was the setting for what was known at the time as the “Moonlight Swim.” For instance, in October of 1924, the Alumni Association held a watermelon fest, which was preceded by a “moonlight swim” at the pool. In May 1925, members of the Rattler Club and the graduating class, hosted boys who were graduating from local high schools and the San Antonio Military Academy. They allowed them freedom to the campus where they were entertained for a couple of hours in the natatorium.

In 1929, the natatorium got a facelift led by superintendent of grounds, Brother Joseph Lanfer. The natatorium was a very popular place on campus since its inception, especially during the warm spring and summer days. The revamping included a new coat of paint, the trimming of the surrounding hedge, and shrubbery. It was also considered one of the finest swimming pools in San Antonio.



St. Mary's Original Natatorium Audio Tourwav / 22.94 MB Download
Natatoriumwav / 7.47 MB Download


One Camino Santa Maria, San Antonio Tx.,78228 ~ The greenhouse is where the natatorium existed previously. Location is north of the Richter Math/Engineering Center, south of the Marianist Residence, west of the Marianist cemetery, and east of Treadaway Hall.