Washington Baths

Dear Mr. Coney Island...
As a kid I would go to Coney Island in season and off with my parents.  I have a co-worker who is interested in Washington Baths because I told him my parents rented a locker for several summers in the early 60's.  We are unclear.  I told him that the entrance was on Surf Ave only a couple blocks from the train station.  He said it was past Raven Hall... I don't remember walking down that far to get to it.  Do you know what street it was on?  Thanks in advance for the answer.
- Kathy

Hello Kathy,

Washington Baths was on West 21st Street, between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk, but there was also a Washington Baths Annex a block away on the Boardwalk at West 22nd Street. Both had salt water pools. The main Washington Baths was right next to Ravenhall and had a large entrance on the Boardwalk. There was a smaller Surf Avenue entrance in the middle of the block used mostly by season pass holders.

Pictured is the big Washington Baths pool on West 21st Street.

Comments

Brings back lots of memories. I spent many summers growing up at the Washington Baths annex. When I was 16 (1963) I worked as one of the lifeguards in the main pool and the following summer, I was the lifeguard at the annex. I later went on to work for the Dept of Parks as a lifeguard on Bay 13, right down the block from Nathens.

It was an amazing time in my life, the same families came on a daily basis and there was always something to do from handball to body surfing in the ocean. The salt water pools were chlorinated and if you ever swam in such a mixture, you know how it really burns your eyes. All in all however, it was a great place to grow up.

I still remember walking along Surf avenue and passing Steeplechase Pool and then Ravenhall and finally reaching Washington Baths. It was a long walk for a little kid dragging a gallon jug of kool-aid.

I seem to remember the price of the season passes being higher. You could either get a single or double locker, or an actual cabana for the season. My brother and I shared a cabana, where we kept our folding chairs, cots, face masks, swim fins, bathing suits, floats and a dozen other things needed for fun in the sun.

To Fran Argyreas: I would like to hear about your Grandfather who "owned Isaac Gellis Deli". The Isaac Gellis Deli was at 37 Essex Street on the Lower East Side. Many delis sold Isaac Gellis kosher meat provisions. If you have some family history to add to the Isaac Gellis legacy, please do. Who was your grandfather? Feel free to contact me: agellis01@aol.com

One of the perks of having my family rent their Souvenir Photo concession from Margaret, the widowed owner of the Washington Baths Annex was free use of that marvelous facility. What a life! My adolescence and early teens in a kids paradise.

I spent summer mornings playing at the Baths' uber-competitive handball courts. It was there that this cocky, Coney Island street urchin first tasted humility served up by 70+year old maestros. I learned that youthful speed and power were no match for experience and intelligence. Effortlessly, these seniors would stand their ground while launching me all over the court. (I was a quick learner though-after about 5 years I, too, was able to master the art of one-wall-gloveless-blackball.)

At games end, I'd beat a path past the lady mah-johnger's to the men's steam room. Ahhh, that sweet release of sweat and tension. It was a combination of sensations that I've never managed to duplicate in my adult world- the Washington Baths Steam Womb. After 30-40 blissful minutes, I emerged and submerged into the obligatory cold shower (no one permitted into the pool without it.)

Jumping, head first, from the pool's highest diving board was the surest way to gain the attention of the girls and the respect of the guys. But, as a year-round resident Coney Islander, I considered it a matter of neighborhood pride. I never hesitated, even though I knew my head oftimes scraped the cement bottom of the 10' landing zone. Feet first? Fuggedaboudit!

From the pool, one could exit the Baths, walk under the boardwalk onto the beach and into the briny waves of the Atlantic. Eyes closed, bobbing up and down in a dead man's float, I'd conjure up a French or English kid doing the exact same thing thousands of waves away on a distant European shore. I always sent him an underwater "Greetings from Coney Island".

Back to the boardwalk and my family's concession. There I'd wheedle coins for the Playland Arcade next door. I played skeeball like the regular I was. Grabbing 3 balls at a time, mechanically banking them into the (40) hole. During the course of the summer, the points would become coupons and the coupons would become a prize (I still remember the elation of triumphantly marching out of the Arcade and down the boardwalk with an Ironing Board for my Mom- 50 Coupons!! An entire summer's effort. 12 years old and able to provide for Mama-how 'bout that!) I imagined the heavily accented voices of the elderly Russian women at the Half-Moon Hotel- "Such a gut boychick" "Nu-look what he got his Mama."

It was my grandfather Harry Smolensky that started the Washington Baths and Washington Annex. It was the best most amazing place to
grow up and the incredible thing also was the steam rooms, they sure don't make them even close now to what they use to be. So steamy you can't see a foot in front of you!
In the winter the polar bear club would be there and I remember being in my snowsuit watching with fascination at them lying in lounge chairs in the snow and going for a swim in the ocean!!

Great photo , but undated. I am almost sure I am in the pool , somewhere. the place was a terrific value. There was everything a proper cabana had. The season pass was about $15-20 in the early sixties. A small child pass could be had for $5-10. From the great pool to the steam rooms and athletic field , the place at it all.

I love this picture! I grew up on the benches of Washington Baths pool. My grandfather owned Isaac Gellis Deli on the opposite side of the pool in this photo. At the end of the season the lifeguards would have a "watermelon race". The team that pushed the watermelon through the pool to their side won. Everyone would enjoy the watermelon afterwards. Beautiful memories.

i worked at isaac gellis after the army in 1955 at the factory/store for almost a year. i remember mrs gellis, her sons abe and bully .... never knew his real name. and one employee nick-named hawk. my aunt and mrs gellis sent me pkges in korea..who ever ate some had to sign the thank you letter...irish ,italian, spanish OR korean. submitted news to korean issue of stars and stripes army newpaper which had her picture w/article. i worked shipping, retail shop, book keeping, and loss prevention and whatever !!

Having been born and raised on Coney Island, my mom worked at Tell Chocolate inside the Childs building next door to WB's. For several summers she bought me a season pass so I could be nearby. I remember going to the gate under the boardwalk where they'd stamp the back of your hand with ink you could only see with a blacklight. We'd meet our friends outside the gate, under the boardwalk and quickly press the back of our hands together so they could get in for free. It was just today March 6, 2011 that I heard on the radio Brenda Lee singing 'I'm Sorry', and described to my wife how I remember clearly hearing that song in the open area between the pool and Surf Ave., near the handball courts on a warm summer day. Great memories

I was born in Williamsburg, but moved to Coney Island in 1950 and lived there until 1958. I lived in a building behind the bungalows, it was wonderful! My grandma worked in one of the bath houses on the Boardwalk, she wouldn't let girls put towels up on the toilet stalls because they were not supposed to change in the bathroom! Washington Baths was a part of that life, the annex, but my sister and I would die in the steam room! I would keep pulling the chain for the cold water and that made more steam so my sister used to open the door and the naked ladies used to scream, "Close the door." We were the Emmett sisters and our address was 2915 West 30th Street, between Surf and Mermaid. We had a wonderful time there and couldn't wait for our 'Jersey Bunch' friends who came from Jersey City to the bungalows every summer! No shower in the bungalows, it was outside!
Went to P.S. 188 and our dentists were named Sonny and Pudgy and Helen, the wife kept guard over the huge charm drawer that was our treat after being tortured by Sonny and Pudgy the world's worst dentists! I was born in a hospital named Beth El, not there anymore! Never saw a doctor, the school's nazi nurse gave us all our shots! We had Assembly Day and Shatkin's knishes and yummy custard (pistachio) and charlotte ruishes (sp?) a pound cake with whipped cream on top! Nathans had chow mein on a bun then, their french fries were the best! We had a fire (lots of fires then in those tenements) and everything ended!

I went to WB most every warm, dry summer day from the early '40s through the early 50's. Those were very impressionable days for a boy 5 to 15. I remember the smells; the white locker rooms and the green cabins. the hot wood where sun scorched old men played endless games of gin rummy seated naked all day on the solarium...the musty steam rooms and perhaps not to hygenic showers. The smell of the big pool with its central fountain was different from the fresh breezy beach and the cool sand smell from under the boardwalk as one passed from the pool to the beach's hot sand and finally the cold surf. The smell of WB toward Surf Ave was of dessicated wood, hot cement and sweaty guys punching a bag, playing ping pong ,hand ball, flexing if they had what to flex and probably a lot of cruising. I was a dumb young schmuck and didn't know what cruising was...I do now.
I went off the high board once, just once. Feet first, the trip down seemed endless and like I said a dumb schmuck that I was, I put my face toward the water to see how much further away it was and the pool water hit me in the head with might of truck head on. I'm going on 75 but remember that like it was yesterday. I remember too, organized swimming races and the greased watermelon melees. I was a strong swimmer for a kid but no match for the guys in their late teens and so when I got into those mix ups in the pool I swollowed a hell of a lot of sea water..
I would welcome hearing from anyone who shared some of my Washingtron Bath memories. Please feel contact me at...halbardach@aol.com

Nathans, kiishes, fireworks, Mark Twain JHS,
Lincoln, Oceana & Tuxedo movies. And.....Johnnys pizza on Mermaid Ave.

Grew up in Beach Haven. Walked or took bus to Washington Baths w mom.
I remember my locker key worn around my ankle. I especially remember the straw or sissel flooring hurt my feet. And oh those older ladies in the steam room. The aromas from the rooms and the whole place is still fresh in my nose I loved it. A wonderful place to spend summers and with Steeplechase just near by. Only a true Brooklynite can ever feel what we feel about growing up there

My family shared a cabin in the sixties. Some of my fondest memories are waiting for all my friends to arrive everyday so we could Swim, Steam, Play Handball, Hit the puching Bags, Do can openers off the high dive, Play tag in the locker area. I remember seeing Joe Pepitone and other Yankees using the facilities. The Parachute was next door and I can still remember one day when Mayor Lindsay landed in the lot on a helicopter. Italians, Jews, Irish all gathering at WB....What memories.

My father worked at Washington Baths as a Masseur...now known as a message therapist. I spent the first six years of my life going there every day in the Summer. This was in the early fifties. I loved this place. I was visiting Coney Island many years back and they were tearing down the baths. I looked thru the fence and saw the pool that I used to swim in and it brought back wonderful times. So sad to be there when it was being torn down. Anyway, my Dad was "Mike the Masseur Health by Massage".
Loved seeing this site!

Thanks much for a great website! I was a lifeguard at WB in '62 at the Annex and in '63 at the main pool. I worked solo at the annex, except for lunch relief and with Tony Almeida at the big pool. The third lifeguard was a guy from, I believe, Texas. He left after half the season and that may have been when Margaret hired Pat? Margaret married Chris Fazio, after a brief WB courtship that year. I remember Yetta the book keeper, Lee Maclowitz and Leah's mom as ticket sellers. Also Eddie the chief cleaning guy and Tommy, who kept the salt water pumps always working.

Have lots more to share. BTW, I'm not sure, but that might be me sitting on the lifeguards chair.

I too spent my summers with my family in Washington Baths. We started going when I was about 5 years old and stopped when I was about 15. Washington Baths, Steeplechase, and the Parachutte jump bring back such great memories. I so much enjoyed reading everyone elses writings about The Baths; I share the same experiences, feelings and memories. I wish I could give you all a hug. Now I live in Glen Cove, NY and it is my plan on the first nice Wednesday to take a drive to Coney Island and go for a walk on the boardwalk past the Parachutte jump down to where The Baths used to be. It's been on my bucket list. I'm 72yrs old now. When I was a member of Washington Baths there were no high rise buildings. My Mother, Brother, and I would take the train to Coney Island from the most northern area in Brooklyn everyday. My Mother would pack our lunch (always a hot meal) and we would either walk or take the bus down to Washington Baths. It was a schlepp! My Dad would come straight from work each day, play a little tennis, go for a swim and then drive us back home. What a wonderful childhood! I'd get to go on the rides at Steeplechase about once a week and we'd get to eat a Nathans once a week. We'd get to have a waffle ice cream sandwich once a week, ususally the night we stayed to watch the fire works, (which they had once a week). All of the baths had solariums on their roof tops where men and women would go to sun in the nude (not together). The men were on their locker-room roofs and the women on theirs. If you went on the parachutte jump, on the ride up to the top you could see the roof-tops. My friends and I thought that was very funny. What great memories. I'm looking foward to Wednesday. I hope I won't be disappointed.

Please give me a call as child I would go to get waffle with ice cream on the broadwalk do you have any information of the people anything regarding this store Thank You my contact cell 845-656-7748

My grandmother was the cashier at Washington Baths around 1964/65. My older cousin and I would spend the day at the pool. Two dollars from grandma once a week provided my cousin and I with lunch at Nathans and a ride on the Cyclone. Good memories.

Hi Pat Ryan,
You & I hung out together when we were kid at Washington Annex. How are you ?

I went to a day-camp in 1961 or 1962 -which was situated in the Washington Baths. We used the salt-water pool and the ocean of course. Played knock-hocky, ping pong and board games when it rained. Can't remember the name of the camp (It was not called Washington Baths for sure)-anyone out there know?

I went there as well in the early 60s...Ocean Breeze Day Camp Run by Sy Fisher and Al Reich. Somewhere I have the group picture of all the junior campers from 1961, I believe.

One summers day back in mid 60's me and friends visited Washington Baths (not annex). we were about 13 years old at the time. my crazy friend howie gresh from coney island projects was always looking for laughs. On the roof sun deck we walked past an middle aged man laying butt naked his ass cooking in the sun. Howie summed up the situation real quick and came back from the bath room with a handfull of soggy wet paper towels and without hesitation smacked the whole soaking wad onto they sleeping guys naked butt. The completely startled guy jumped up as howie let out a laughing yell and a keystone comedy chase broke out with naked man chasing us through Washington baths. We escaped into the steam room until things"cooled off". I'm still working on my stories about growing up in Brooklyn in the 50'& 60. gary heiden originally from 3020 surf ave. of coney island projects 1957-69. If anybody knows black dude named Dexter Cottman who attended ps 188,288 & Mark Twain in 1960's please let me know. He was very special guy, my classmate and true friend. last seen leaving the lunch room of Lincon H.S 1971.

I cannot believe I am reading all these comments. Does anyone remember the iceman coming on his wagon, pulled by a horse? It's vague for me, but I do remember him coming down the street hollering, ice, ice. Grandma kept her icebox cold with that block of ice that made it into the icebox held by this strong man and his ice prongs. But I do remember clearly my teen years at Washington Baths. Black Ball with those seniors was a privilege for me. I learned sportsmanship, speed, agility, and how to enjoy another generation far beyond my years. Diving from that high board was always fun, swimming under water with my eyes open, and yes, they burned, but we knew it was clean. The beach was impressive, right there in the baths. Now I am going to have to dig out those old photos. We visited Coney Island yesterday to take lots of pictures of the new Coney Island. It was a carnival. Thanks for this blog. Let's have more.

My parents, went to WB (The Baths), before I was born and with my 3 sisters Linda, Fonda & Ava we had season lockers every year. So many wonderful memories, particularly during the 1950's and 1960's. During the 1960s there was a hole group of teenagers that hung around the handball tournaments every year and won in 1963 or 64. Many of the "summer friends" got together in the rest of the year for sweet 16s and other events. It wasn't just the summer, on half-way decent day from March through October, the baths were open.

Many of the handball players of those years had nicknames like Mustache Al and Baldy Jack, Lefty Lenny and Little Sammy. My mom played handball and had a regular women's game and my dad played with the men. As kids we had to start on the back courts against the old guys, including 'Crooked Luie" who blocked every shot and then claimed he didn't move.

They were wonderful years. The waffle ice cream cones on the boardwalk were a nickle. Kinishes 15 cents and hot dogs for a quarter.

Hi Al,

I enjoyed reading your comments. I am with my mother Marion (94 years old) and my sister Susan right now and we remember your family. We also used to hang around the handball courts and enjoyed playing both handball and paddleball. My mother played in handball tournaments against the women. My father was "Jack the lawyer" who was as pretty good player and often made it far in the handball tournaments. I practically grew up at Washington Baths, since we went every weekend without question as long as it wasn't rainy. During summer vacation, we went 7 days a week and my father joined us in the evening after his workday.

Around 1970 we moved over to Brighton Beach Baths as Washington Baths fell in popularity. However, we have wonderful memories going there and greatly enjoyed our many days there during the 1950's and 60's.

Murray Applestein

Of course I remember your mom playing handball with my mom and with Francis and other women players. I miss those times.

I don't know how I came across this page, but I'm glad that I did - it brought back a lot of wonderful memories. Now I will add mine.

My parents and their friends had season lockers (actually the outside rooms, or 'cabanas' - as the 'lockers' were inside) at "the Annex" for as long as I can remember. I'm guessing that my earliest recollection of the Annex was when I was about 8 years old - circa 1954.

My friends and I thought the Annex was the greatest place on earth, and couldn't wait every year for opening day on Memorial Day Weekend. It was a wonderful place to grow up, and grow up there I did. I don't recall when the Annex closed, but I know it was after I married my childhood sweetheart, Helene, who I met there - we're married almost 50-years now and living in Somerset, NJ! Her family sat downstairs near the handball courts, and my family sat upstairs overlooking the pool.

Yes, Margaret owned the Annex, and in her later life married a very formal gentleman, Chris, who I vividly remember wore a suit and tie to work at the pool every day! On the left of the Annex, with my back toward the ocean, (I believe his name was) Chris, had a lunch counter and a bar, where everybody went for coffee and toasted Drake's pound cake. My father, Helene's father, and all the 'guys' would occasionally enjoy a few 15¢ beers there. Right next to Chris' place, was Pete's Pizza. In later years Pete moved his pizza place into Chris'. On the right of the Annex, again with my back to the ocean, was my friend Richie Einiger's father's "Half Moon Bazaar", where my friend Dave Mareck also worked. Richie went on to have a distinguished career with the RKO company, Dave, I believe worked in I.T., and is now living in FL.

Immediately to the right of the Half Moon Bazaar, was the skee ball arcade - standard games for 5¢ on the left, and super long alley games for 10¢ on the right. To the right of the skee ball, in the old Loft's Building was Shatzkin's Kinishes. It was here, at the age of 15 (I told them I was 16) that I got my first real job working for Bill & Morty Shatzkin. I think i worked there for three seasons, pretty much every summer through high school.

I remember many of the 'kids' we hung out with growing up at the Annex: there was my wife, Helene, & her sister Marilyn (Friedman) - Lafayette HS, now in Buffalo, NY; Jeff Davis, now in FL (we saw Jeff about 6 months ago); Dennis Karpf (sp ?), Helene Moskowitz, Francine (Weber), and Yetta, (who could forget her?) in her orange bikini. Arnold Schessel (sp ?) also hung around with us.

Some of the people I remember are: Mr. Baskin, Ace, Steve, or was it Gene Stanley (yes, Mr. America!), Eddie was the handyman who kept the place running and kept making steam for the steam rooms. I can still hear all the 'old men' yell at us kids - "close de door"!

Now I have to go look for some old pictures.

Submitted by Alan Fine - finetimer@comcast.net

I loved reading this. I spent the same years there. Helene and her brother lived a block away from me in Bensonhurst. Mark was two year older than me and his sister a couple of years younger. After I joined all my aunts and uncles joined my uncles were the old men playing handball and my aunts playing cards down by the courts story were the best days ever. I had a locker there by myself from age 9 till about 13 or 14

My grandfather was Chick who ran the souvenirs store a few doors down from Nathan's. He also had a few games in the bowery. My mom worked Coney Island since she was a teenager in the 1940's. I was born 1956 and on weekends I went with mom to Coney Island while she worked and Chick put us on the rides telling them we were his grandkids. We rode around as toddlers to young girls in the tea cups over and over, it was our childcare. When we got old enough we went into the 'animal nursery' across the street and got scared of the wild monkeys rattling the cages on our way to the kittens and puppies. Then we began with Summer times at Washington Baths playing both hand and racquetball all day long interspersed with a visit to the pool, running ragged as the old timers won every game. My favorite was the 3 story women's bath house with a steam room and only cold showers, throwing pails of cold waters as we ran under the dangling breasts. I loved Washington Baths in every way - thanks for the memories

Spent my whole childhood at the annex. Imagine I was 9 years old and had a season locker there. Had one till I was about 13. During the week Margaret would give us passes to the main. My grandmother lived down the block from the pool. My mom would come check up on me thru the gate. I'm laughing as I write this because who would let their kid do that today my mom would be arrested today. I even took my cousin on the beach and she was two years younger. Use to love the old man with the wagon who sold hot steamed chick peas they were called obiss. My other grandparents lived in coney island as well my grandfather was schick the Taylor on 27th off if mermaid. Oh and every Saturday to steeplechase. We had the life back then

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