The long, tragic history of a Chelsea bathhouse

The luxurious Everard Baths, opened in a former Romanesque Revival–style church at 28 West 28th Street in 1888, was supposed to be a place devoted to health and fitness. Really.

Started by James Everard, who made a fortune running the Everard Brewery on 135th Street, the baths launched amid the Turkish bath fad of the 1800s.

“Unlike ordinary public baths, where workers went to wash if they didn’t have bathrooms, Turkish baths were popular among the middle class and wealthy, who frequented them to relax in the pools,” explained a 1977 New York Times article.

Turkish baths had another clientele: gay men.

By the 1920s, the baths had become a “bathhouse and dormitories,” divided into tiny cubicles.

The Everard existed for decades as another unmarked bathhouse occasionally subjected to police raids.

But then on May 25, 1977, a fire broke out there, killing nine young men.

The Everard was open for another nine years until the city shut it down in 1986 in response to the AIDS epidemic.

Today, the unassuming building on a dingy Chelsea block houses a wholesale clothing distributor.

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3 Responses to “The long, tragic history of a Chelsea bathhouse”

  1. Joly MacFie Says:

    What is a shame is that no 19th Century style turkish baths survive in NYC. In England, by contrast, certain municipal run ones – such as Porchester Baths in London, do. Spacious, classical luxury – a cross between a gentlemen’s club and a gym. White jacketed waiters serve everything from food to cigars. That they never ‘went gay’ is probably due to the fact that they also function as clubhouses for the local wiseguys, as well as cops, and well-off businessmen.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Interesting. At least some of the municipal bath buildings put up a century ago here in NYC survive. Some of lovely ornamentation, even though they serve other purposes now:

  3. BabyDave Says:

    It was known, of course, by some patrons, as the Ever-Hard.

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