Public Bath Houses 161

Necessity For Bath Houses

The benefits of public bath houses are so numerous and the advantages to a community arising from a well-planned system of such buildings are so well known that further comment would seem unnecessary outside of pointing out the extent to which public baths are patronized. In Boston, for example, where much thought and care are given to baths, over five hundred thousand people bathe annually. In Glasgow, Scotland, 853,000 was the total number for their banner year. In New York City at one bath house alone in one year 865,650 people, over one-third of whom were women, availed themselves of its advantages; while in Cleveland 172,000 people have visited a single bath house in one year. This liberal use of public bath houses, wherever they have been erected, points out more forcibly than could words the necessity for the erection of bath houses in all cities of whatsoever size and class. In manufacturing or mining towns and large commercial centers the necessity for bath houses will be found the more urgent, but there is not a city or village throughout the land where bathing facilities are not lacking for the great mass of people. In the smaller cities and villages, where cost must be considered, the basement of school houses, town halls or other public buildings can easily and at small cost be fitted up as public baths. If the baths are located in the basement of school buildings so much the better, for school children can then avail themselves of the advantages during the day-time and the general public at night.

Location Of Bath Houses

In locating public bath houses it is of the utmost importance that they be placed in the districts where there are the greatest demands for their use, and the buildings should be located as centrally as possible within those precincts, so they will be readily accessible from all points without entailing a long walk. It is obvious that men or women, tired after a hard day's work, will think twice before walking a dozen blocks for a bath, no matter how much good it would do them, whereas they would not hesitate a minute if the bath house were near by. In order that the bath might be brought, if not home to the patrons, at least convenient for all, it would be better in large districts to erect several bath houses at different points in preference to one large bath house of the combined capacity of the several at some central location.

If distance has a deterrent effect on attendance, no less so has the architectural character of the building, an imposing and formal exterior frightening the more timid away, while a less pretentious building, more in keeping with the neighborhood, attracts them or invites their confidence. Such timidity might seem foolish, but, nevertheless, it is true, particularly in districts where bath houses are first being introduced. It would be well, therefore, in such cases, to make the buildings simple and attractive, both inside and outside, so far as architectural enrichment or sumptuous furnishings are concerned. Cleanliness, simplicity and sanitary completeness should be the cornerstones of the edifice.