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.