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    The Catalina Pool: a Star-Studded Oasis in the Arizona Desert


    When you look at a guest list that includes Frank Sinatra, Irving Berlin, and Clark Gable you naturally assume you’re looking at an event that took place in Hollywood, California—or, maybe the early days of the rise of the casinos of Las Vegas, Nevada. Starting in the 1930s, The Arizona Biltmore Hotel was home to a fabled swimming pool that attracted movie stars, politicians, and athletes. Exclusive poolside parties were the norm. A series of United States presidents reclined next to the pool. Future president Ronald Reagan and his new wife Nancy spent much of their honeymoon relaxing in the Catalina Pool. In the 30s, 40s, and 50s everybody who was anybody could be found lounging at the Arizona Biltmore’s ultra glamorous Catalina Pool.

    The Catalina Pool, circa the 1930s

    The Catalina Pool, circa the 1930s

    In the 1930, William Wrigley, Jr.—who made his fortune selling chewing gum—purchased the Arizona Biltmore so that he could convert the hotel into a lavish desert getaway for friends and family. Wrigley hoped to transform the sleepy state of Arizona into a glitzy tourist hub. William’s wife Ada helped design an elegant art-deco pool that featured blue and yellow tile. The Wrigley’s opted to name the pool Catalina in honor of the island where they lived. The colorful tile that Ada used to decorate the pool was made in Catalina. The Catalina Pool was a favorite layover location for Wrigley’s baseball team The Chicago Cubs, The Cubs trained on Catalina Island, and welcomed a luxurious stop in the desert en route to spring training.

    Photo Courtesy Of The Arizona Biltmore

    The Catalina Pool hosted fashion shows, diving contests, and even a few spur of the moment performances from Sammy Davis Jr. Booze flowed freely, and guests loved to show off their chic poolside attire. Irving Berlin is rumored to have written “White Christmas” while lounging poolside in the broiling hot Arizona sun. Marilyn Monroe famously loved to sunbathe at the Catalina Pool. Official hotel records show that Marilyn Monroe never actually stayed at the Arizona Biltmore, but delighted in sneaking to the Catalina Pool while she was working on a nearby film set. William Wrigley, Jr. was surely overjoyed each and every time the world’s most famous blonde bombshell lounged on one of his pool chairs.

    The Catalina Pool, circa the 1930s

    Photo Courtesy Of The Arizona Biltmore

    Photo Courtesy Of The Arizona Biltmore

    Surrounded by mountains and lined by palm trees, the Catalina Pool has been a treasured desert retreat for over 90 years. You no longer have to be a wealthy heiress or a legendary movie star to soak in the Catalina Pool’s crystal clear water. The Arizona Biltmore still has a great deal of classic Hollywood charm. The ornate gardens and Frank Lloyd Wright Ballroom make visitors feel as though they have stepped back in time. The Biltmore even features a speakeasy that pays homage to the hotel’s prohibition roots. Tourists from around the world flock to the Catalina Pool to recharge in the warm desert sun. William Wrigley Jr.’s dream of turning the state of Arizona into a tourist mecca has been fully realized. The Catalina Pool’s storied history and timeless elegance will never stop attracting visitors.



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