The Student News Site of Punahou School

Ka Punahou

The Student News Site of Punahou School

Ka Punahou

The Student News Site of Punahou School

Ka Punahou

The History of Punahou’s Aquatic Facilities

Punahou School Archives
A view of the Elizabeth P. Waterhouse Pool with Bingham Hall in the background (1927). All photos in this article courtesy of the Punahou School Archives.


Between the late 1800s to the early 1920s,  Punahou students swam in a cement “tank” before the original Elizabeth P. Waterhouse Pool was built. The facility was enclosed by a wooden fence and had pieces of rope and other equipment for swimmers to use. Punahou’s first pool was opened in 1922, named in honor of Elizabeth P. Waterhouse, a Punahou student and daughter of trustee John Waterhouse. The Elizabeth P. Waterhouse Pool measured 75 feet long and 25 feet wide, holding 193,000 gallons of water. Water for the pool was initially sourced from the nearby Punahou Spring, however, environmental constraints required that the water be supplied from the City after a few decades.

In addition to the pool itself, the aquatics facilities also provided ample seating for spectators of aquatics events, with bleachers flanking the length of the pool. One of the most features of the original Elizabeth P. Waterhouse Pool was the diving tower. Used for diving and synchronized swimming events, the tower measured approximately 26 feet at its highest deck.

With a growing student population requiring larger facilities, the Elizabeth P. Waterhouse Pool underwent renovations after almost 60 years of use. Named in honor of Punahou trustee and attorney Charles Dudley Pratt, construction of the Pratt Aquatic Center containing the Elizabeth P. Waterhouse Pool and adjacent facilities was completed in 1981. The complex boasts an Olympic sized pool, holding 1 million gallons of water, over 5 times the capacity of the original Elizabeth P. Waterhouse Pool. An adjustable bulkhead also divides the pool into two separate parts, allowing for different activities to happen at the same time.

Construction of the new Elizabeth P. Waterhouse pool within the Pratt Aquatic Center begins (1980)


The storied history of Punahou’s aquatics programs dates back over a century, even before a pool was built on campus. In 1911, the school’s first all-boys swim team was established. Since many schools lacked a pool of their own, little competition between Punahou and other schools would take place until 1916 when the Yale Meet was established. Punahou often hosted and participated in the annual meet during the early 20th century.

A girls’ team was not formed until 1946, winning the ILH title the same year. Since then, Punahou’s swimming program has set the national record for the most consecutive high school state championships (22) between 1974 and 1995.

Punahou’s water polo program was officially established several decades after. Even though the sport was enjoyed by many before then, it only became officially recognized by the Interscholastic League of Hawaiʻi in 1966. By the 1970s, both boys’ and girls’ programs had taken off, winning numerous ILH championships and receiving national attention. Punahou’s water polo teams continue to be successful with the Girls’ Varsity program winning their 13th straight state championship this past May, and Boys’ Varsity team winning the ILH championship game last October. 

Synchronized swimming was also offered for female students during the mid 1900s. At the time, synchronized swimming was one of the most popular clubs on campus. Club members would meet on a regular basis, with titles awarded annually to outstanding swimmers or contributors to the club’s activities. Although no longer offered as a club, synchronized swimming is currently incorporated into the curriculum of girls’ middle school P.E. courses.

The completed Elizabeth P. Waterhouse Pool and Pratt Aquatics Center

The legacy of Punahou’s pool facilities continues through the students, coaches, and teachers that use them each day. Looking forward, there is no doubt that Punahou’s pool will continue to cultivate the growth of Punahou’s athletes for decades to come.

This story was originally published in Ka Punahou‘s 2023 print issue “Stone & Flow,” which you can view in its print form with additional photos and content by visiting

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

All Ka Punahou Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *