ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Café Alcazar has a most unusual location in St. Augustine.
The restaurant sits at the bottom of a swimming pool.
It's inside the Lightner Museum.
"It's just hard to believe it used to be a swimming pool," Kathy Vanderee said as she sat at her bistro table for lunch.
It wasn't just any swimming pool.
According to Lightner Museum Director Bob Harper, "In its day, it was considered the world's largest indoor pool."
At 120 feet long and 50 feet wide, the pool was the site where women swimmers from the Southeast U.S. competed in order to go to the Olympics in the 1920s.
"These tryouts were the first step toward becoming an Olympian," Harper added.
The Women's National Amateur Athletic Union Swimming Championships were held at the pool.
"There weren't too many large swimming pools available at the time, so the pool at the Lightner -- which was at the time The Alcazar Hotel -- was the obvious choice to hold the regional tryouts."
Spectators would usually stand on the second or third floors overlooking the pool.
Harper added, "There were bleachers at either end of the pool."
"To see a sporting event you had to be there, you had to go there," Harper explained, "because there was no ESPN or television at all."
Alice Lord Landon was on the 1920 U.S. Olympic swimming team, and she competed and swam in the pool at the Alcazar Hotel.
Vanderee looked up from her meal at the skylight and around at the concrete walls and beamed.
"It just gives it a lot more historic significance," she said.
What was once a grand pool at a grand hotel sent swimmers off to greatness too.
"Oh, it must have been gorgeous," Vanderee said in awe. "Just beautiful ... and it's beautiful now, too!"
Where else can you say you ate at the bottom of a swimming pool where Olympians once swam?
First Coast News