Memory Lane

May 23rd, 2008

I had to get a bit emotional when i got to page 20 of the most recent BAM and saw the photo of the Smith Swim Center being demolished (Elms, March/April). As a 24-year-old grad student at Brown, I learned to swim at the center. I started out with the holding-onto-the-side method in the free-swim area, and soon progressed to full laps, but only in a side lane so I could grab hold of something solid if panic struck. Before I graduated two years later, I was a daily visitor to the center and often chose the middle lane to remind myself how far I had come aquatically. I also puzzled out problems with my dissertation while doing laps, so I came far academically as well, thanks to the center. Farewell, old friend.

Susan Behrens '86 PhD
Brooklyn, N.Y.


No doubt moisture and corrosive sanitation chemicals helped ravage the Smith Swim Center beyond repair. Nevertheless, the demise of a building not yet thirty-five years old raises troubling questions about Brown's choice of architect, designer, and builder for the project.

Once the Colgate Hoyt pool (built in 1903) had outlived its original purpose, it was transformed into the Ashamu Dance Studio (1979). And significant remains of the Baths of Caracalla (A.D. 216), which contained among various amenities a natatio or swimming pool, still stand in Rome despite the barbarian depredations of the fifth and sixth centuries and of time long since. The ruins of the ancient edifice have famously served in recent history as a spectacular venue for musical and other cultural events.

Sic transit gloria mundi? Not necessarily. Not entirely.

 Paul J. Palmera '65 AM
Warwick, R.I.

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Related Issue
May/June 2008