Tucked back off of Fraiser Road in DeBary, Florida lies a little known historic sight that has long been forgotten. The First pool in Florida, which was built in 1871. The little trail is about half a mile but well worth the trip to see a DeBary secret.
Tucked back off of Fraiser road in
DeBary lies a historical sight that seems like it has been long forgotten and
abandoned by the small town and historians alike. A place that was originally part
of the DeBary Mansion’s 9,000 acres of land and used as a relaxation spot for
Fredrick DeBary and his high-status guests. The first pool in Florida. Yes,
contrary to St. Augustine’s claim to be the home of Florida’s first swimming
pool, DeBary takes home the trophy here as its pool was constructed in 1871,
versus 1887 for St. Augustine (King). Before we get to more detail of the pool,
lets dive into the history of the surrounding area and daily life of Floridians
and tourists during this time.
During the 1800’s DeBary was more
than just a town off of Lake Monroe and the St. Johns River. It was a
destination that was teaming with life and relaxation and served as a relaxing
paradise for visitors and later became known as the river city.(Volusiacounty.org)
This began in the early 1800’s where steam boats made the St. Johns River an
attractive travel destination for northerners to visit during the winter.
Routes ran from Charleston and Savannah, to Jacksonville and Palatka up until
around 1860. In 1860, modern day Enterprise was added to the list of route
options. A steam boat ride from Jacksonville to the Enterprise took about 18
hours one way but the guests on board loved the natural beauty of the St. Johns
and were intrigued by the many birds and wildlife that they saw along the river
bank. The St. Johns River was also used to transport cargo up and down
throughout Florida and increased trade throughout the state.
In 1870, a man named Fredrick
DeBary, arrived to the Enterprise area on vacation from New York and instantly
fell in love with the area. He, as well as many others, appreciated the natural
beauty of the state and in 1871 bought 400 acres of land and became inspired to
build what is the modern day, DeBary Mansion where the first pool lies. When he
built the home, he intended it to be used as a getaway home for his family and
upper class friends. In 1875, using his entrepreneurial skills, DeBary bought a
local steam boat company and began offering tours and shipping cargo to markets
within the state. By 1876, he obtained thirteen ships and fully established his
company, “The DeBary Merchants Line”, as a leading entity in the steamboat
When guests vacationed to the
Debary Mansion for a getaway or vacation, there was no shortage of
entertainment or relaxation for the guests. When DeBary was present, he would
often take guests to his privately-owned spring to swim. The spring is still
around today and is better known in the local area as Green Springs. Another
area guests could swim was in the first pool in Florida which was located about
two thirds of a mile away. The pool was built the same year as the house (1871)
and was fed by a nearby spring. The pool was square in shape and featured
wooden planks as walls, a natural sand floor, and two wooden changing rooms.
The wooden planks were later changed to concrete walls at a future date. Today
you can still visit the pool where the original out house still stands by
following a small path off of Fraiser road in DeBary, however, it is now fenced
off and has since been covered by foliage and other natural debris.
When guests were not swimming or
relaxing at the spring, they also had the ability to hunt Florida’s vast
wildlife. Contrary to hunting for fun, a majority of the people in the DeBary
area relied on hunting as their main
source of food. The great hunting grounds also served as one of the main reasons
Mr. DeBary choose DeBary as the location of choice for his vacation home.
Guests could also ride horses throughout Florida’s landscape as another main
activity for fun. The DeBary hall hosted dozens of people throughout the year,
but some of the more notable ones include presidents Ulysses S. Grant and
Cleveland, the Vanderbilts, and the Prince of Whales. (Debary Mansion)
Knowing a little bit of the
background only serves to improve the uniqueness of the first pool in Florida.
The possibility that you can go see a place where huge names in history
could of swam or walked around is definitely something to check out. While the
pool may not be in great condition anymore, it is definitely something you
should explore and will also give you a nice getaway of your own to the great