The Morehead State Nanatorium was located at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky and was closed to the public in 1988. The historic pool, once billed as the “epitome of swimming pools,” was demolished in 2007.
The Senff Natatorium was first envisioned in April 1932 when President John Howard Payne, with the support of the Board of Regents at Morehead State University in Rowan County, Kentucky, commissioned the architectural firm Joseph and Joseph to design plans for an indoor swimming facility.1 3 The Board of Regents voted to go ahead with the construction of the pool because of the cheap labor costs, as power equipment was not used; manpower and mules were used to build the site.
The natatorium was completed on June 22, 1933 and was named after Judge Earl W. Sneff, a member of the Board of Regents.1 3 Etched in stone at the front of the building, facing the Adron Doran University Center, is, “This swimming pool is dedicated to the ideal of a clean and vigorous youth,” which was pinned by Emmitt Bradley, an English professor at the college.
The swimming facility served not only the students of the university, but the newly created Daughters of Poseidon and the Aquamen. During World war II, the Navy Bluejackets used the pool to attain certain swimming skills critical for the war.1 They attracted a lot of “peeping toms,” according to Jack Ellis, a retired Director of Libraries for the university, because they swam nude.
The natatorium was later added to the historic district of Morehead State University and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.2
In 1988, major plumbing pipes under the pool were damaged during an extended winter freeze.1 The building was once slated for renovation that would have reconfigured the existing space to create a new science center, planetarium and multimedia theater, and would be open to public schools, groups and individuals at a cost of $4 million.2 It would have offered a hands-on museum and programming.
On September 20, 2007, the Board of Regents voted unanimously to demolish the building, citing that adaptive reuse for the structure could not be found.1 Preservation architects twice tried to identify a possible reuse, but converting the building to any other use would be very costly because of the structure’s design.
Demolition began in late December.3 As part of the demolition progress, the stone etching above the primary entrance to the facility was preserved and placed on the new student recreational center when it is constructed.1 The former lot for the nanatorium was used to update the adjacent Button Auditorium, adding modern restrooms and backstage facilities for actors.