Historic Restoration Tour: "Hey Rookie" Pool

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photo of Gaffey Street Pool

A month later I found myself again joining Bill for a round of visits to three historic sites in and around Los Angeles. As was the case for the Neptune Pool, all three have significant cultural value and are in need of renovation. And they are all coincidentally situated on hilltops with dazzling views of the surrounding areas.

Our first stop was in San Pedro to the site that was once Fort McArthur, a World War II U.S. Army installation whose primary purpose was the defense of the Los Angeles Harbor. There, sitting atop a hill over looking the harbor is a large, long abandoned swimming pool that was once named the "Hey Rookie Pool," which these days is known as the Gaffey Street Pool.

The pool was built through funds raised by proceeds from "Hey Rookie," a live show produced and performed by members of the Fort MacArthur Garrison. The show was developed during the early years of World War II as a way to increase morale and quickly became so popular the military took it on the road in the U.S and overseas.

The pool was built in 1943. During the war, the pool was used for both recreation and training recruits who didn't know how to swim. In the decades following the war, the pool became a popular fun spot for the citizens of San Pedro and military families who lived on the base. It also became home to a water-ballet company known as the Southern California Aquabelles.

After nearly 40 years of heavy use, time took a heavy toll on the pool, which fell into severe disrepair and was eventually drained and closed in 1990.

In the years since, the Fort McArthur Museum Association worked with local government and community associations to raise funds to refurbish the pool and surrounding deck terraces, an effort that amassed $6.9 million for the restoration, which broke ground Feb. 5, just two days before our visit to the site.

As is the case for the other projects described here, Bill is playing a key role engineering and planning the renovation work, which will involve a completely revamped circulation system along with the painstaking restoration of the pool's all-tile surface and the expansive surrounding hardscape.

Having grown up in and around Los Angeles, I've seen my fair share of graffiti, but nowhere had I seen anything close to this. Despite those artistic insults and its currently unusable condition, it's also readily apparent that the pool still has great bones with its 1930s-esque modernist design and breathtaking views of the harbor.

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