The story of New York City’s swimming pools through photographs, 1930-1960 | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

The story of New York City’s swimming pools through photographs, 1930-1960

New Yorkers have been taking the plunge in the Big Apple since the late 1800s, when the state legislature passed a law mandating free bathrooms in cities with populations of more than 50,000.

The state believed that it was necessary to provide bathing facilities for families in overcrowded homes, where hygiene issues were a major concern. Swimming pools' predecessors, bathhouses, were initially used for cleaning and therapeutic purposes, but over the years became more geared towards entertainment.

As well as the bathhouses, New York City also claimed "floating baths" along both the East and Hudson Rivers. These wooden baths were filled with river water and protected by pontoons boasting dressing rooms for men and women. However, these beautiful watering holes were short-lived due to the growing concern of river pollution and the limited number of seasons in use.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Parks Department became the authority on bathhouses and began a large-scale project with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to build several grand bathhouse and outdoor pool complexes.

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