Zwembad Ouwen Dok
THE ABANDONED SWIMMING POOL IN BELGIUM
‘Zwembad Ouwen Dok’ is an old swimming pool in Mechelen. It was built in 1924 and is a luxury hotel today. It was abandoned for more than 15 years.
Although there were already plans to built a pool in 1897, the city of Mechelen didn’t gave permission for construction until the First World War. It was designed by the architect August van Haesendonck in a Neo-Renaissance style.
Many workers built this luxury building with fine detail. ‘Ouwen dok’ was ready in 1924 and was opened to the public on July 6 during the same year. For a few cents every local was welcome. At the back of the old swimming pool there were two entrances: one for the men and one for the women. Above each entrance, people were reminded of the importance of cleanliness: “Order, purity and politeness are a crown for all ages” and “By cleanliness, rich and poor can adorn the same beauty”.
The actual pool area was fully tiled in white and blue. On a big round staircase stands the bronze statue ‘the rescuer’ by Willem Geets. The rescuer was in fact Petrus Leopold Janssens, a coal worker who received 21 decorations for the rescue of 44 drowners from the river Dyle.
Around the swimming area there were also a row of decorative tiles and a built-in sponger with the text Crachoir or Spuwbak. Originally, the roof construction consisted of glass, placed in a metal art nouveau frame. But weather influence forced the city of Mechelen to replace the glass roof with a blue painted ceiling in the 1950s. The changing rooms, which were located around the swimming area, were also placed outside the swimming hall.
In 2001, the old swimming pool ‘Ouwen dok’ was closed to the public. It was reconverted to a hotel in 2019. I visited ‘Zwembad Ouwen Dok’ in Mechelen in 2008. Follow this link for more abandoned pools.