326 Rivington Street Public Bath
Opened: March 23, 1901
Original Cost: $95,691
The Rivington Street Public Bath was the first of the municipally-funded public baths in New York City resulting from the efforts of the progressive public bath movement. Ground was broken in December 1897 for a large building with 91 showers and 10 bathtubs. The building was intended to serve the largely Jewish population of the Lower East Side.
At the time of this writing (Fall 2006) the building is abandoned and nestled in the middle of Baruch Houses, a 2,200-apartment NYC Housing Authority complex that was completed in 1959. Coincidentally, the complex is named after Bernard Baruch, who was the son of Simon Baruch, a physician commonly regarded as the father of the public bath movement in the United States. The high-rise complex was an urban renewal effort created by demolishing area tenements. The area's street grid was altered by this development, terminating Rivington Street West of the complex and isolating this incongruous but substantial building in its midst.
The dilapidated building was closed and sealed in 1975 during the city's financial
crisis, leaving only one obvious entrance door at the front. The foliage growing
out of the top of the building may be indicative of compromised roofing that
would leave what is left of the interior unusable. Ironically, although the
real estate on which the building sits is probably of substantial value, ownership by
the city in the middle of public housing probably means that this
building may remain standing - ignored and unloved - for many years to come.
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