Posts Tagged ‘East River swimming’

Women’s Day at the Fifth Street swimming baths

August 5, 2009

In the 1920s and 1930s, the city began building neighborhood swimming pools for kids (and adults) to cool off in on steamy summer days. 

But back in the 1870s, residents flocked to the pools’ precursors: “swimming baths.” One stood at Fifth Street and the East River; another at Bethune Street and the Hudson (then North) River.

This sketch, from the New York Public Library’s picture collection, depicts “women’s day” at the baths in 1876.


I couldn’t find an account of women’s day, but this June 2, 1884 New York Times article reveals what a boys’ day must have been like—and why women and girls wanted their own time to swim without the distraction of rowdy boys:

“Hundreds of young Neptunes, with grimy faces, stood in crowds at the gang-planks of the free swimming baths before five o’clock yesterday morning, when the various natatorial institutions were thrown open to remain for use until noon.

“[At the Fifth Street Baths] about 800 boys plunged into this bath yesterday morning perhaps a shade less grimy and sundry shades redder.”

Taking a swim in the East River, 1892

June 6, 2009

It must have been pretty hot out on this day at the Fulton Fish Market—so hot that these kids stripped off their clothes and dove in to the East River to cool off, disregarded the fact that it was illegal to swim in the river. For obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, fishmongers and others go about their day.


This photo is part of the New-York Historical Society.