Exeter Deconstructed: The Thompson Gym swimming pool

Patrick Garrity
January 29, 2020
The pool at Thompson Gym

On a remade South Campus, tucked between two gleaming new pieces of Exeter’s present, sits part of the Academy’s past — and, perhaps one day, part of its future. 

The Thompson Gymnasium swimming pool, drained dry for nearly half of its hundred years, remains in the school’s master plan. How it might be used is still in the idea stage, but its enviable spot near the William Boyce Thompson Field House and the David L. and Stacey E. Goel Center for Theater and Dance makes the space a prime piece of property in South Campus’ renewal.

Students prepare to jump into Thompson Pool

When it was built in 1918, the pool was considered state-of-the-art — not to mention an essential addition to Big Red athletic offerings, given that Andover had opened its new pool more than three years earlier. That head start didn’t help the Blue, however; Exeter won eight of the first nine head-to-head swim meets with its oldest foe.

The pool’s heyday ended in 1969 with the construction of an Olympic-sized pool in what became Love Gymnasium. In 1986, a sagging skylight over the original pool was disassembled, the electrical system was upgraded and the signature glass blocks in the exterior wall were replaced. The pool has been in semi-hibernation ever since, awaiting its next chapter.

An empty Thompson Pool

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the winter 2020 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.