Hello Coney Fan,
The bathhouses were where people rented lockers and changed from street clothes to swim suits. You could also rent swimsuits and beach chairs and umbrellas. Before the boardwalk was built the beach was private and the only way to get to the ocean was to pay admission at a bathhouse. Some of the bathhouses had recreational equipment, handball courts, restaurants, and huge salt water swimming pools. Everyone had a favorite.
They were very social places and generations of families and friends from the same neighborhoods patronized the same bathhouses for years until the last one (Brighton Beach Baths) was demolished in the early 1990s.
As a true Steeplechaser from 1954-1963 we also partonized a bathhouse by the name of Washinton Baths. I'm an amatuer researcher/collector of Coney's great history and can find very little about the old place. Mr C.I. can you fill me in?
I used to go to Brighton Beach Baths as a kid but never took my camera. Do you have any pictures of the place or would you know where I can find some?
Washington Baths during the 1950's. An oasis for Brooklynites seeking fun in the sun. We always sat in the same area on the upper deck on the West 21st Street side. You could see Shatskin's Kosher Knishes, where at the end of the day, we would pause to get a snack--that is if we didn't go to Nathan's for dogs and root beer. Maybe a chowmein sandwhich? Steamed sweet corn?
Back to W.B. Yes, there was Ravenhall, Stauch's Baths and W.B. Annex, but we were loyalists. There was handball, speedbags (punching bags), steam rooms, solariums, and even an attached restaurant on the boardwalk side. Forget you bathing suit? You could rent a suit and a towel--but if I remember correctly, the suit were made of wool!
Just down the boardwalk was a penny arcade with skeeball and other games. How many nickels did I waste on skeeball trying to get coupons to win a wothless prize?
W.B. was about more than sun and bathing...it was about a generation that came back from WWII and enjoyed the simple pleasures of Coney Island, summertime food, friendship, pinochle and fireworks.
Ou sont les neiges d'antan?
I was a season ticket holder from about 1956 to 1962. I think a season pass was $35. The woman who ran the place was named Margaret. Washington Baths was known as the most "Jewish" friendly place...and there were many Asians as well. (Ravenhall and Steeplechase were where the Italians went, as far as we kids were concerned. Brighton Beach Baths was for the rich Jews.) My friends and I were avid blackball handball players and used to play the old guys who would give us a terrific run for our money...often beating us, to our amazement! We used to go to the steamrooms, waddle around in the pool, get our hands stamped and schlep out onto the beach of Coney Island, and go on the roof to get baked, while looking at the purple-skinned alter cockers who cooked up there for what seemed like forever! A highlight for us pre-teens and teens of course was climbing onto one of the roofs that looked down on the women's solarium. My friend Michael blew it for us one day when he saw an elderly woman flopping around on the solarium and yelled out "Hey, lady, how're they hangin!" She looked up and saw us, scramed, we screamed, jumped off the roof and ran like hell!
Ah, those were the days!
You can find some in Facebook under the group "Brighton Beach Baths"
My parents used to go to Washington Baths back in the 70's before it closed down. Word was that the city was going to need the land to build a new convention center which is the Abe Stark Skating Rink. However such was not the case. Just like Steeplechase pool the owners of Washington Baths closed because they refused to give in to segregation. I recall they told members that there was a huge crack in the pool and it would cost to much to repair or replace. They did however keep the annex open for another year or 2 and closed it down. I do have one memory where i somehow got lost in the mens locker room and found a door and it led to a stair well. since I was on the ground floor I walked up to the top thinking I would be on the roof. Little did I know it led me to a solarium. The only problem was that I would up on the womans side where there was about 8 not so good looking women soaking in the rays. I don't know who was scared more. Me seeing beached whales on the roof or them seeing a teenage boy. LOL
Washington Baths closed in 1968. Many problems plagued the place including a filtration system that was required to be installed to continue operations. This was a magical place for me. I went there from 1948 until it closed. A "season ticket" for a kid was $5to $10 that entiled you to daily admission. Beside a great salt-water pool the place had showers, lockers, athletic fields , restaurants, and a beach. In the locker rooms were steam rooms and solariums. Access to the public beach and ocean was a plus as was the boardwalk. Coney Island in the 1950's was heaven on earth to me
I believe Washington Baths and Ravenshall both burned to the ground on April 28, 1963 leaving the empty space east of Child's Rest. which served as a firebreak that night. Probably the only permanent structure built there after this fire was the Abe Stark Skating Rink by 1970 I'd say.
I have a basket full of metal "safety pins", each with a number. Does anyone know if these were issued for a locker at Coney Island beaches? I would appreciate any help. Sandy
I lived in Coney Island and went to Washington Baths with my mother and sisters. It was awful for kids there then, we kept opening the bath door so that we could breathe and all these real fat women, many naked, would scream "Close the Door!" I went to PS 188! My block was taken down and city housing put where we once lived at 29-15 West 30th Street. Summer bungalows were across the street from our building, which was set back in an alley. GREAT CHILDHOOD and best memories. Moved in about 1958. Anybody remember the Mermaid Theater? We went there every Saturday for matinees, they had a nasty matron with a flashlight always trying to keep us in line! All the kids in the neighborhood used dentists named Sonny and Pudgy!
When I was young I can remember the Ocean Parkway Baths. My aunts and uncles had lockers there.
My parents would meet them on the beach near the bathhouse. This bathhouse was not for rich people. It consisted of just locker rooms and showers. I can still remember my aunts taking me in the showers and the steam room after a day at the beach.
My husband's family ran "Island Baths" under the boardwalk by Childs around 1947. I would love any info that anyone has.
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