Albany’s Public Bath No. 1

PublicBathNo1.jpgMunicipal Journal and Engineer from July 1902 featured a thorough overview of Albany’s first public bath, Public Bath No. 1, located at 665 Broadway (smack in the middle of the east side of the block between Orange and Quackenbush), hailing a public bath as a “step in the interest of public morals, clean living and the betterment of citizenship.” A clean populace, apparently, was a moral populace. (The bath house is shown here on the left, in a photo from Albany Public Library from 1976.)

“The public bath was opened on December 17, 1901, and, while not of pretentious proportions, is a decidedly attractive building. The arrangement of the rooms could not be better and the sanitary conditions are of the best. At the entrance to the building is a large waiting  and reading room and the superintendent’s office. Back of this is the private bath with two tubs and ten showers and toilet rooms. At the rear of the private bath is located the swimming tank surrounded on two sides by thirty-eight dressing rooms and these are so arranged that no one can enter the pool without first passing through a small shower bath room, in which every one must take a shower bath. This tends to keep clean the water in the pool. Above and around the plunge is a gallery for running or for visitors. The tank itself contains 70,000 gallons of water and is lined with white tile. The depth of water varies from four feet at one end to seven at the other. There is a diving platform on one side about five feet above the surface of the water. The water is kept fresh by a steady inflow of pure water and is kept at a moderate temperature by steam pipes. The dressing rooms are of black marble, the walls of white tile and the ceiling of metal painted a light green. A large skylight admits an abundance of light to the pool and rooms.”

The bath was instantly busy, and the city often had to turn patrons away, seeing an average attendance of 150 a day in those first months. “From the first of April to the twelfth the attendance amounted to 1,861, of which 875 were boys, 125 girls, 763 men and 98 women. The women and girls are chiefly of the working classes, the kind for whom the bath was mainly intended, and the attendance of all sexes is constantly growing. It is stated on local authority that bathing parties are coming into vogue among the young ladies of the city.”

The hours and prices were complicated. Residents paid a fee of 10 cents (non-residents, 25 cents) on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday; baths were free Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Women and girls over 15 could go any day except Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Men and boys over 15 had from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday was upside-down day, and the hours were reversed. The bath provided soap, towels, trunks for males and bathing suits for females were all provided free. Those who wanted to wear their own could rent a locker for $1 a year; their suits and towels would be washed, dried and returned to the locker by snappy attendants.  “The fact that at times a small fee is charged has caused some to grumble, but many poor people favor a small fee for it relieves them from the feeling that they are receiving charity.”

“About $30,000 has been expended for the construction of the bath, but the money could not have been used to better advantage. This bath has proved the popularity of such an institution in the city and it is probable that others of like character will be erected in the near future.”

Courtesy of the “Albany…The Way It Was” Facebook Group, here’s a floor plan of Public Bath No. 1:

Public Bath plans  Broadway and Orange  1900  albany ny

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