60th Street Public Bath
At the turn of the 20th century, New York was a densely populated industrial city with many of the city's residents packed into squalid tenement homes that lacked facilities for bathing. In keeping with the strong progressive spirit of that era, the city built "public baths" that were buildings of showers intended to promote personal cleanliness and, ultimately, Godliness and good civic behavior.
The public bath at 232 West 60th Street opened in 1906. The 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. As a common meeting place for these groups, the public bath was the location of violent clashes that lead to the naming of the neighborhood.
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 became Recreation Center 59 and the indoor pool became the Municipal Lifeguard Training School. The outdoor pool was replaced with an expansion of the recreation center.
Next: 515 West 59th Street