Going for a swim at Madison Square Garden

Imagine if every summer, the interior of the current Madison Square Garden was transformed into an enormous swimming pool, with diving platforms, seats for spectators, and a 25-foot waterfall.

Madison Square Garden as a Swimming Pool

Pretty cool, right? A pool like this actually did exist during the summer of 1921—host to swim competitions and diving shows, and open to the general public too.

The pool was the idea of boxing promoter Tex Rickard, who leased the Garden, then on Madison Avenue and 26th Street, for a series of Friday night fights.


“In addition to a full slate of boxing matches, Rickard’s plan for the Garden included remodeling the structure, adding seating capacity (bringing it to 13,000 seats), and turning the giant amphitheater into the world’s largest indoor swimming pool during the summer months,” states Tex Rickard: Boxing’s Greatest Promoter.

MadisonsquaregardenIIUnfortunately the pool didn’t last much longer. Rickard gave up his promoter’s license after being accused of improper behavior with a couple of teenage girls.

That didn’t end his career though. He helped finance the creation of a new Madison Square Garden on 50th Street and Eighth Avenue, which opened in 1925.

The circa-1890 arena, designed by Stanford White, with the new pool (above) was demolished.

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9 Responses to “Going for a swim at Madison Square Garden”

  1. groovy historian Says:


  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I’m curious about that Tudor-like backdrop in the first photo.

  3. William Krause Says:

    Just guessing about the Tudor-style background: Display designers sometimes use the fashions of their times to make their results look current. Maybe Tudor was “in,” given the 1921 date.

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Good point, Tudor architecture was all the rage–Tudor City, etc.

  5. Cypress Says:

    Wild! Love the photo.

  6. Rich T Says:

    All those people in the stands just to watch other people splash around, I guess people were desperate for intertainment in those days.

  7. Linkage: App to List “Sketchy” Neighborhoods; Co-op Sues Con Ed | LIBERTY ALLIANCE Says:

    […] places $ 6.65M townhouse on market [NYDN] · Supermoon’s tonight! [Gothamist] · When MSG was turned into a gigantic swimming pool [ENY] · Bedbugs found on 5 train [NYDN] · UES co-op sues Con Ed to save trees […]

  8. thegildedbutler Says:

    That is so cool!! Would have never known! great post.

  9. Madison Square Garden’s massive bowling alley | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Over the years, the various Madison Square Gardens built in New York have hosted just about every sport: football, boxing, track, hockey, basketball, even swimming. […]

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