City Seeks Community Input on Conversion of Abandoned Baruch Bathhouse

Posted on: March 5th, 2018 at 5:00 am by

Photo: Robert Carmona

Now approaching its 117th birthday, the Baruch Bathhouse, nicknamed the “White House” by NYCHA-dwellers, may soon return to the ranks of the living after decades of dormancy. Indeed, the facility hasn’t been utilized since the city cemented the place shut in 1975.

Well, the Parks Department is looking to issue a “Request for Expression of Interest” (RFEI) for the abandoned structure, the first step in exploring design ideas for potential reuse. The subject of its potential conversion will be heard at the Community Board 3 subcommittee for parks matters later this month.

“We’re interested in what uses the community would like to see for the Baruch Bathhouse,” a Parks Department spokesperson told us in an email. “That’s what we’re hoping to learn at the [CB3] meeting.”

This building has been through a lot. At the behest of Dr. Simon Baruch, a former surgeon in the Confederate army and physician in the Lower East Side slums, the city completed and opened the Rivington Street Bathhouse at 326 Rivington Street in March 1901. It was the first free public bathhouse of its kind, and featured an indoor and outdoor bathing pool, 45 showers and 5 tubs for men, as well as 22 showers and 5 tubs for women. The bathhouse was apparently such a success that long lines in the summer of 1906 nearly caused a riot.

Opening day at Baruch Bathhouse, Photo: NYC Parks

The facility was renamed in honor of Baruch in 1917, four years before his death.

In 1939, the doctor’s son, Bernard Baruch, donated to the city most of the land on which the current park sits. A year later, the bathhouse was renovated and playground built on the site. However, the Parks Department eventually shuttered the the building in 1975 during the city’s financial crisis because it had become “too dilapidated to operate.” It never reopened.

Embarrassingly, it’s been reported that NYCHA employees allegedly don’t know what the building is, or once was. “I’ve never seen anyone in there,” one custodian previously told Curbed. “No clue what it’s supposed to be used for.”

Recent Stories

Ludlow Coffee Supply Pays Tribute to ‘Mail Art’ Artist Ed Higgins

A local coffee shop is paying tribute to an iconic Lower East Side artist. Ludlow Coffee Supply recently hung artwork by the late Ed Higgins III on its cafe wall. The exhibit was installed by the nearby Van Der Plas Gallery, which had previously featured his work. Higgins, known as a pillar of the “Rivington […]

Eighteen-Story ‘Moxy’ Hotel Woos its Bowery Neighbors

Moxy is meeting the neighbors, currently amidst the requisite charm offensive ahead of its new hotel debut on the Bowery. The superstructure at 151 Bowery – construction of which had been on pause during the initial phase of the pandemic – topped out last October and now sits at eighteen stories. Joining the sky-high company […]

Another Lower East Side Crab Shack Shutters

It’s a crisis of crab cakes on the Lower East Side. In an apparent coincidence, two dedicated crab shacks – both located within a few blocks of one another – closed just days apart this month. As previously reported, Crab Du Jour closed down its franchise at Grand and Suffolk Streets within the last couple […]

A Show of Strength and Mourning As NYPD Responds to Domestic Dispute Call on Elizabeth Street in Little Italy

A man armed with a knife threatened his family in an Elizabeth Street apartment, then barricaded himself, cops said. At approximately 12:30pm on Monday, sources said the assailant menaced his family inside 239 Elizabeth – allegedly with a knife – then barricaded inside another room. Officers from the 5th Precinct arrived in good time, and entered the […]

Sheldon Silver, Disgraced Assembly Speaker from LES, Dies at 77

Sheldon Silver, the disgraced powerhouse of the New York State Assembly, and native Lower East Sider, whose career was toppled by a 2015 corruption conviction, died yesterday. He was 77. According to the New York Times, Silver, who maintained a residence at Hillman Houses, had been imprisoned at Devens Federal Medical Center in Ayer, Massachusetts. […]