On our way to the Graey Spring/Summer 2011 runway show yesterday, we came across this public bath house behind some scaffolding. With large arched windows, multicolor brick and limestone construction, a pedimented doorway and gargoyles, this building is strongly reminiscent of municipal architecture from the early 20th century. Like the bathroom at Allen and Delancey, public baths were the city’s physical solution to the lack of indoor plumbing in poor neighborhoods.

In 1895, a state legislative act mandated the construction of free public baths in cities of 50,000 people or more. Prior to this, temporary floating baths along the river served this need but pollution rendered their use untenable.  Constructed in 1906 on city acquired property, this bathhouse was one of the first to be built and served the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, which at the time was a gritty Irish immigrant neighborhood. It also once served a black neighborhood, that was razed to accommodate the construction of Lincoln Center.

The good news is that it’s not being torn down but is being renovated. It should be done by Spring 2011 and will feature a new indoor pool (to replace the defunct outdoor pool), First Aid room, and improvements to the gymnasium. The complex has long been a community center, serving as the training facility for New York City Parks’ Municipal Lifeguard Training Program, adult and children swim classes, after-school programs and the Performing Arts for the Youth program, sponsored by ABC Inc. & Disney Company. As such, the renovations will also include the construction of a youth activities room, computer facilities, and other public meeting spaces.

How to Get There:
West 60th street, between 10th and 11th Avenue
Subway to A/B/C/D/1 to Columbus Circle