Parks Department Soliciting Input to Repurpose Abandoned Baruch Bathhouse
For 43 years, the building sat dormant. Now, the second coming of the long-vacant Baruch Bathhouse is in its early stages. But first, more brainstorming and red tape.
The city’s Parks Department returns to Community Board 3 tonight to further discuss the Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI), as well as timeline for the ultimate Request for Proposals, for the much anticipated conversion project. It’s the first step in exploring design ideas for potential reuse of the relic.
The matter first appeared on the board’s agenda last March.
In the meantime, the advisory body organized a task force charged with overseeing its conversion.
“Parks will be engaging the CB3-convened community task force group to discuss and obtain feedback and guidance from in order to draft the RFEI,” a Parks spokesperson tells us.
The building, conceived as the Rivington Street Bathhouse and nicknamed by locals as the White House, dates back 117 years.
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 facility 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.
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.