Just west of the intersection of South Fifth Avenue and Walnut Street in Yakima stands a car wash that gives little hint of the waters that once gave pleasure to so many.
About a century ago, an artesian mineral spring-fed natatorium was built at the site.
Natatorium is a fancy name for an indoor swimming pool, and this was pretty fancy. But what caught the eye, and made it “famous,” was the water. It was built on the site of a pure artesian spring and well.
Debbie Vlcek, formerly of the Yakima Valley Museum, said the natatorium was built at 201 S. Sixth Ave. in the early teens of the last century. By 1913, people were flocking to it for bathing, swimming and diving.
The pool measured 45 by 90 feet and dropped to 7 feet at the deep end. To make the facility even more enticing, hair dryers were installed in the women’s locker room.
Mover and shaker, or at least dipper and kicker, John Clemmer was the original natatorium owner.
The natural temperature from the spring was 92 degrees, but because the water was changed every night, it averaged 78 degrees for those bathers and swimmers.
Kids and adults could ride the trolley from downtown Yakima and get off right in front of the facility.
Also beloved was the artesian well — the most popular place in the city, the Yakima Republic newspaper once trumpeted.
You just dialed “65” (yes, only two numbers) on the phone if you wanted artesian water delivered to your home by horse and buggy.
The natural water contained silica, potassium, ferric oxide, lime, sodium, magnesia, chlorine, sulferic acid, lithium, potassium and carbonic acid.
“It must have stunk!” Vlcek couldn’t help but note.
There’s little left to see on the site that’s reminiscent of a grand, old indoor pool, but it is just a stone’s throw from Lions Pool, the city’s current indoor facility.
However, one of the patrons is still around, sort of, for the ogling. A life-size figure of a girl diving graced a neon sign at the natatorium. That sign, says Vlcek, now hangs in the Yakima Valley Museum.
By 1938 the natatorium had shut down, lasting only about 27 years. It must have been time to make way for progress.