A floating pool in the Hudson River in 1938. Photo via Curbed.

Yes, Central Park has Lasker Pool and several gyms and buildings have pools, but there does seem to be a dearth of public pools on the Upper West Side. That was not the case 100 years ago. Starting around 1870, the city set up floating baths in the Hudson and East Rivers, according to the New York City Parks Department.

“The baths were 95 feet long and 60 feet wide, floated on eight pontoons placed four on each side. In the center of each floating bath was a large well divided into two parts, one 93 feet long and 34 feet wide for adults, and one 70 feet long and 8 feet wide for children.

The depth of the water in the large well was 4 ½ feet and in the small one 2 ½ feet. There were 68 dressing rooms opening upon a small gangway around the edge of the well. They were open from late June or early July to early October. In 1911, 1,818,721 patrons used floating baths.”

As companies dumped toxic crap in the river, the pools became less appealing and were mostly shut down in the 1920’s. The parks department refurbished three of the baths in 1938 and placed them in the Hudson at 96th. They lasted for a couple more years.

The idea is back in vogue, however: there’s now a floating pool in Barretto Point Park in the Bronx and one has been proposed for the East River.

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HISTORY, OUTDOORS | 6 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      JCC pool is wonderful!

    2. jsf says:

      I love it! Count me in That would be terrific – a salt water Hudson River pool for everyone and locally. I miss the Paris Pool – and hate the fact that we were strung along at varying rates for almost 1-1/2 years – on the assumption that the owners were going to reopen the pool (while they sold it for additional gym space. I now swim at the JCC,buta Hudson River Pool! Wow How can we organize to get this going?

      • Ira Gershenhorn says:

        Come to the WE ACT meeting on Monday 6:30 pm. Environmental Justice workshop. Here’s the FB link.

        FYI. WE ACT may own the barge facility at West Harlem Piers. That location has the best existing infrastructure to support a Hudson River pool. I will be there to promote that use of that barge facility.

    3. Ira Gershenhorn says:

      Its time to bring them back. The Floating Pool in the Bronx is small and has low capacity but is appropriate for that location as they have a serious problem with lack of amenities and serious water issues.

    4. Ira Gershenhorn says:

      The only thing going for the Plus Pool is the light it shines on New York City’s lack of swimming resources despite its being surrounded by water. Other than that, the Plus Pool effort feels like an exercise in bolstering the resumes of its staff. They go through the motions but do they seriously want to build something? Has Dong-Ping Wong ever swum in a NYC waterway?