Public Baths

538 East 11th Street , Arnold Brunner, 1904-05
133 Allen Street, York & Sawyer, 1905

During the 19th century, social reformers argued that the lack of bathing facilities was contributing to high mortality rates and that cleanliness would promote good citizenship in the growing immigrant population. The New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor opened the first public bathhouse at 141 Mott Street in 1852. The movement gained traction in the 1890’s, and 14 City-funded bathhouses opened between 1901 and 1914. The East 11th Street and Allen Street municipal bathhouses were both designed with limestone, Renaissance Revival façades. Though they now function as a photography studio and a church, respectively, their ornamental details – fish and tridents in the cartouches on East 11th Street and scallop shells in the terra-cotta medallions on Allen Street – hint at their former aquatic functions. 538 East 11th Street is a New York City Individual Landmark.