East 54th Street building provided public bathing facilities to tenement residents. On May 10, 2011, Landmarks designated the East 54th Street Bath and Gymnasium at 342-348 East 54th Street in Manhattan as an individual City landmark. Werner & Windolph completed the three-story, Classical Revival building for the City in 1911. The redbrick building features a large stone cornice, tripartite arched openings, and four Doric columns featuring capitals adorned with Poseidon’s trident. Landmarks staff described the structure as “remarkably intact.”
The East 54th Street facility was the twelfth of thirteen Free Public Baths of the City of New York. The City’s baths were mandated by an 1895 State law and served the residents of nearby tenements which often did not possess bathing facilities. The East 54th Street Bath became obsolete as the surrounding residential buildings added bathing amenities. The facility ceased operating as a bathhouse in 1938, and the City converted the building into a public gymnasium and community facility. The City in 1996 closed the building to carry out extensive renovations. The facility re-opened to the public in 2001.
At a January 2011 public hearing, John Krawchuk, director of historic preservation at the Department of Parks and Recreation, testified that the agency supported designation. Representatives of the Historic Districts Council and the Victorian Society in America also expressed support for designation.
The Commissioners unanimously supported designation. Commissioner Diana Chapin noted that she was pleased that another building serving the public’s need would be added to Landmarks’ portfolio. Commissioner Joan Gerner concurred, noting the building’s architectural and cultural significance. Commissioner Fred Bland compared the City’s remaining bathhouses to its relatively few remaining Federal rowhouses, noting that both types of building represented a “vanishing era” and deserved protection.
LPC: Free Public Baths of the City of New York, East 54th Street Bath and Museum, 342-348 East 54th Street, Manhattan (LP-2435) (May 10, 2011).