The Huron Street public bath

It’s hard to imagine today, but in 1903 when the Huron Street Bath was opened to the public the vast majority of Greenpoint tenement apartments did not have showers or baths. People had to use public baths, like the one on Huron Street, for personal hygiene.

Today, the first floor of the former Public Bath building is home to Cowood Gilders, a framing and gilding company. Image via Google Streetview.

The Bath House closed in the 1950’s, but the building still survives today as a framing company. Similar to the other public baths in New York built at the turn of the last century, the Huron Street Bath House was built in Roman Revival style, designed to be an imposing copy of ancient Roman baths with classical pilasters, columns, arches and cornices.

East 23rd Street Public Bath, around 1915. Via NYC Parks.

The bath cost more than a hundred thousand dollars to build—huge money in 1903. The facility had steam heat and contained 25 shower stalls for women, 62 for the men and 2 tubs, one on each side of the building. The bath included a separate entrance for men and woman with a booth in the middle, which rented soap and towels.

In 1919 when Longshoreman Peter McGuinness shocked the political establishment by getting elected Alderman, he made the area’s lack of public bath houses one of his chief accusations against the Alderman and District Leader. At its peak the Huron Street facility served on average over a thousand people a day, but as more and more people got indoor plumbing that number dropped to two dozen or so when it closed in the 1950s.

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