Kiphuth Exhibition Pool History

Built in 1932 and located in the west wing of Payne Whitney Gymnasium, the Robert Kiphuth Memorial Exhibition Pool is the home of Yale swimming. Named for Yale’s famous swimming coach and former athletic director who was involved with the Gym for over 35 years, the 25-yard, six-lane pool was designed for intercollegiate competition. The pool sits at the bottom of a 50-foot high funnel of 2,187 seats which rise at an angle of 45 degrees and offer every spectator a perfect view of the action below. This is augmented by the fact that the 157-foot wide ceiling is held aloft without the aid of supporting columns - no easy engineering feat in the 1930’s. The architects designed the seating so it was entered by a series of tunnels, through each of which no more than 35 people need pass. That way, no more than three steps had to be climbed to reach any seat. Under the seats are air ducts which bring fresh air into the arena without lowering the temperature at poolside where the swimmers are. In the deep end of the pool is an underwater “coaching window.” Actually, the window was put in after World War II, when Alistair Cooke came to Yale to film a television special on the history of swimming.

Esther Williams, the famous swimmer, put on an exhibition for the cameras; the window was to show her, and some of the Yale swimmers who participated, while underwater. The pool has been the site for numerous national competitions, including the NCAA and AAU championships, but one of the greatest events staged in this arena occurred in 1992 when Yale, Harvard, and Princeton competed in a double-dual meet for the first time ever. Yale’s other pool, the practice pool, is the world’s largest suspended natatorium. On the third floor of the gym, it hold’s 330,000 gallons of water, weighing 2.75 million pounds, and it includes a movable bulkhead which allows it to be used as either a 25-yard, 25 meter, or 50-meter course.