Public Bath Number 4
Tucked away in a tightly-built neighborhood a few blocks southeast of City Hall is one of Yonkers' three remaining public bath houses. It was built as a refuge for working class citizens whose tenement-like housing did not have hot water, or perhaps had no sufficient plumbing at all. The pool later served as a recreational center for the citizens of Yonkers and shut down in the late 1980s. After two decades of abandonment, this National Register-listed building is due to face the wrecking ball in January 2011.
Public Bath Number 1, said to be the first of its kind in the county, was built in 1896 and was demolished in 1962 and replaced on its site, on present-day Riverdale Avenue, by an apartment building called Philipse Towers. Public Bath Number 2 still stands on Vineyard Avenue near the site of old Mulford Gardens. Dating to 1898, it became a church in 1969. The Mount Hebron Apostolic Temple acquired the building and replaced the twelve showers with pews for 125 congregants. Renaissance Revival Public Bath Number 3, the most elaborately designed building, is a prominent sight on Nepperhan Avenue and dates to 1909.
Bath house 2 never had a pool, but baths 3 and 4 had pools and showers. A New York Times article from 1982 claimed that the charge of five cents provided a towel, a bar of soap, and of course, a hot water shower. In the early 1980s, the charge was 50 cents, though few people came just for the showers. By then, 4,700 people a month swam at the "Linden Street Pool," as it was locally known, and about 3,000 over at Public Bath Number 3. Among those who benefited from swimming at Public Bath 4 was Yonkers native Lea Loveless Maurer, who later won an Olympic gold medal for the United States swimming team in 1992.
German-born, Brooklyn raised architect O.J. Gette (1873-1955) designed Public Bath Number 4. A Yonkers resident after 1915, Gette also designed the Yonkers-Crestwood Branch Library and Birch Brook Hall and other apartment buildings and homes. As a landscape architect, Gette designed the grounds of Mulford Gardens. Gette designed both buildings and grounds for Tibbets Brook Park and swimming pool.
The three surviving Yonkers Bathhouses were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The architectural and historical qualities that led to Public Bath Number 4 being listed on the National Register are outlined on the website of the Westchester County Historical Society. "Employing classical detailing derived from Renaissance motifs to articulate its wall surfaces, the building’s monumental façade and entrance surround are legacies of the "City Beautiful" movement and reflect the increased attention that municipal structures received during the first quarter of the 20th century. Architecturally significant as one of the few building of its style and type in Yonkers, its plan and configuration is also important as it represents the final phase of bath house construction in both Yonkers and the nation. Together the three extant public baths in Yonkers represent the evolution of municipally sponsored bath houses in this country."
Many thanks to Andy McGuire from Capitol Demo for this tour in December 2010.
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