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No, this abandoned pool is not in South Africa, it’s an old resort in the United States

IN SHORT: Two photos of a swimming pool, apparently taken decades apart, have been shared with claims that the pool is in South Africa. But it isn’t. The photos show a resort hotel in the United States, which closed in 1986.

Various posts on Facebook ask “what happened to South Africa?” alongside two photos of what is presumably the same swimming pool, many years apart. One image shows a pool full of bright blue water, with people in and around it. The other shows an empty abandoned pool, overgrown with vegetation.

Many public spaces in South Africa, including public swimming pools, were racially segregated until apartheid policies were repealed in the early 1990s. 

The question “what happened to South Africa?” is posted with the photos of the pool, with some of the comments answering “freedom” and “democracy”. These posts imply that the end of apartheid and racial segregation has been a negative change for the country.

We took a closer look at these photos.


Pool in the United States

A reverse image search for the two images turned up the work of photographer Pablo Iglesias Maurer. He photographed many abandoned places, including this pool, for a project titled Abandoned States.

Maurer’s photo of the abandoned pool can be seen in this 2017 article, which was published on the website DCist. The article features animated files that show Maurer’s photos of now-abandoned places fading into pictures of them in their heyday. The older photo of the pool originally appeared on a postcard. 

The photo of the abandoned pool shared on social media in South Africa is not Maurer’s, although both clearly show the same pool from similar angles. The pool is located at an abandoned resort hotel in the Catskills mountains in the US state of New York. The resort was named Grossinger’s after the family that owned it.

Grossinger’s was one of the most luxurious resorts out of more than a thousand hotels and other holiday destinations in the area and boasted the Olympic-sized outdoor pool featured on the postcard. It was “built in 1949 at a cost of $400,000”, according to DCist.

But expensive attractions like its pools, golf course and ski slope likely contributed to the decline and eventual abandonment of the resort and others like it. Grossinger’s eventually closed in 1986.

Since then, the resort has fallen into disrepair. Various parts of it have been destroyed by fire or, as in the case of the indoor pool, deliberately demolished in 2018, according to Maurer.

A video showing the abandoned outside pool was shared to YouTube in September 2018. The pool is still visible in Google Earth satellite imagery taken in 2016 but it is gone by 2020. 

The photos of the pool have nothing to do with South Africa and what has – or hasn’t – happened since 1994.

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