Coney Island Stories

The Coney Island History Project Oral History Podcast


Season 1 Episode 6: A Century of Bathhouses

Show Notes

Episode 6 features the stories of bathhouse owners, workers and patrons from the Coney Island History Project’s oral history archive. Bathhouses were the first businesses in Coney Island. Even before Coney’s first hotel was built in 1829, crude bathhouse shacks were set among the dunes. Before the city built the boardwalk in the 1920s, most of the Coney Island beach was private and bathhouses provided the only access to the beach and were a summer home away from home for patrons. 

Many had overnight accommodations, restaurants, and swimming pools, and some offered massages and the ever popular nude sunbathing.  They were very sociable places and generations of family and friends from the same neighborhoods patronized the same bath houses for years until the last one, Brighton Beach Baths, was demolished in the early 1990s. Now hardly anyone knows what a bathhouse is. 

Interviews with Jose Beth Smolensky, Cindy Jacobs, Richard Termini, Arthur Nintzel, Harold Blumenthal and John Bonsignore were conducted by Charles Denson, Amanda Deutch, and Tricia Vita between 2000 and 2020. You can search and listen online to over 375 oral history interviews, including the ones featured in this podcast, via

This episode was produced by Charles Denson, Ali Lemer and Tricia Vita. Music by Blue Dot Sessions. 

Click through the slide show below to see the photos related to this episode while you're listening!

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This program is supported, in part, by funding from Humanities New York provided by the CARES Act and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Also supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York City Councilman Mark Treyger.