232 West 60th Street Public Bath
This limestone and brick building, with terra cotta ornamentation, featured 49 showers for men, 20 showers and a tub for women and a 35' x 65' indoor swimming pool. The bathhouse served the predominantly Irish Hell's Kitchen neighborhood to the South, the primarily Negro San Juan Hill neighborhood to the north, and longshoremen who worked on the then-active west side docks.
The lot to the south on 59th Street was acquired for use
as a playground and in 1912 became home to a two-story English Gothic style
field house designed by architect Theodore E. Videto. In 1938, a tenement
building to the east was demolished and replaced with an outdoor pool that
opened in 1943. The field house is now Recreation Center 59 and the indoor pool
serves the Municipal Lifeguard Training School. The outdoor pool has long been
out of service, although there are long-standing plans to demolish it an
replace it with an expansion of the recreation center.
Early conflicts at the public bath between Irish and Negro patrons presaged later racial clashes in the same area that would be immortalized (albeit with different ethnic groups) in the musical and film West Side Story. Scenes in the film version of West Side Story were shot in the San Juan Hill neighborhood that had been condemned for the creation of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Amsterdam Houses public housing complex.
Next: 523 East 76th Public Bath