Dawn Fraser Swimming Pool | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Dawn Fraser Swimming Pool

Item details

Name of item: Dawn Fraser Swimming Pool
Other name/s: Elkington Park Baths, Balmain Baths, Corporation Baths, Whitehorse Point Baths
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Recreation and Entertainment
Category: Swimming Pool - inground built
Location: Lat: -33.8534402213 Long: 151.1732020890
Primary address: Glassop Street, Balmain, NSW 2041
Local govt. area: Leichhardt
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP179092
LOT639 DP752049
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Glassop StreetBalmainLeichhardt  Primary Address
Fitzroy AvenueBalmainLeichhardt  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
former Leichhardt Municipal CouncilLocal Government 

Statement of significance:

The pool is a complete swimming complex extending back to the turn-of-the century. It is an excellent example of pool architecture no longer practiced and a well known Sydney landmark set in an attractive harbourside location which has become a feature of the pool. It is representative of the development of a harbourside recreational and social facility and is associated with prominent swimming identities and world champions. It provides evidence of the major popularity of swimming as a competitive and recreational sport in Australia. (EJE Landscape 1994) (Walker 1991)
Date significance updated: 03 Sep 97
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Builder/Maker: James Reynolds
Construction years: 1882-1924
Physical description: An irregular shaped swimming pool, enclosed by a timber structure, supported by timber piles where it is above the harbour. The main swimming area is almost square with the southern side curved to follow the shore. In the south-west corner, a wedge-shaped children's pool has been made to fit in with the existing configuration. The entrance to the baths is marked by a squat tower, which separates two timber buildings following the curve of the foreshore and contain the changing rooms for men and women and the swimming pool office. The buildings on the harbour side house the Balmain Swimming Club including club change rooms and there is also a tiered stand for spectators. The room in the tower houses the archives of the swimming club, which go back to 1884 and also served as a club meeting rooms. The pool itself is surrounded by a timber deck used for access, watching swimming races and sunbaking. At low tides there is a small sandy beach alongside the entrance.

Nearby the baths, in Elkington Park, is a brick cottage for the manager of the baths. (Walker 1991)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physcial condition is good.
Date condition updated:02 Sep 97
Modifications and dates: 1882 - original pool constructed
1904 - enlarged and manager's cottage built
1924 - enlarged
1956,1957, 1959 - repairs and alterations carried out
1961 - seating gallery installed
1962 - stone wall constructed around children's pool
Current use: Swimming baths
Former use: Swimming baths


Historical notes: Balmain Council acquired land at White Horse Point for public baths in 1880. A tender by James Reynolds was accepted in 1881 and the baths were in use by January 1882. They were open to men during daylight hours and at limited times for women. (EJE Landscape 1994)

The Balmain Swimming Club was founded in 1884 shortly after the baths were opened. When it celebrated its centenary, it was the first club to do so. The club is also thought to be the first swimming association in Australia and many of its members have achieved distinction in swimming, water polo, diving and life-saving. (Walker 1991)

In 1902 the original 1882 enclosure was replaced with one giving a width of 60 yards owing to pressure from the Club. A two storey changing and viewing pavilion (south) was added as well as two boardwalks extending out from the shore and one diagonal boardwalk. In 1904 a cottage was built in Elkington Park for the manager of the baths.

In 1924 the baths and structures were enlarged. Other main alterations were a north facing changing pavilion and grandstand, two springboards and a tower, a two storey entry pavilion in the south pavilion, changing boxes on the west and east boardwalks, and the Western Shed. Swimmers who used the baths included Tony Fenech, Frank Jordan and Dawn Fraser. Repairs and alterations were carried out in 1956, 1957, 1959; a seating gallery was installed in 1961 and a stone wall was built around the children's pool in 1962. (EJE Landscape 1994)

In 1964 the pool was renamed in honour of Dawn Fraser, local resident and Olympic Swimming Champion at three consecutive Olympic Games. Dawn Fraser learnt to swim at the baths and swam with the Leichhardt-Balmain League of Swimmers from age 8 to 13. She then had two seasons with the Balmain Ladies Club and won two New South Wales Championships. (Walker 1991)

In 1983 the complex was refurbished and at this time much of the fabric of the building was replaced, the lattice was rebuilt and reinstated and the exterior cladding around the edge of the baths above the water was changed from corrugated iron to timber. (Walker 1991)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Sport-Activities associated with organised recreational and health promotional activities (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
It is the most complete swimming complex extending back to the turn-of-the century. It is associated with Dawn Fraser a local resident and Olympic Swimming Champion at three consecutive Olympic games. (EJE Landscape 1994)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
It is an excellent example of pool architecture no longer practices and a well known Sydney landmark set in an attractive harbourside location which has become a feature of the pool. (EJE Architecture 1994)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
It is socially significant as a local recrational landmark and the home of the Balmain Swimming Club - probably the oldest swimming club in Australia. It provides evidence of the major popularity of swimming as a competitive and recreational sport in Australia. (Walker 1991)
SHR Criteria f)
One of the few remaining tidal public pools in Sydney Harbour and the only one to retain its over-water-enclosure. (Walker 1991)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0139823 Jun 00 735230
National Trust of Australia register   14 Aug 91   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Sydney Harbourside and Ocean Pools Survey1994 EJE Landscape  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Dawn Fraser Swimming Pool View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Dawn Fraser Swimming Pool View detail
WrittenM Walker1991National Trust Classification Card - Dawn Fraser Swimming Pool
WrittenMoyle, John2018'Balmain or Bust'

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5001040
File number: H00/00191

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