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Exploring NYC’s Public Pool History in the Lower East Side and Two Bridges

August 14, 2022 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

New York Adventure Club | www.AdventureClub.com

Ever wonder what it would be like to swim in the East River or Hudson River? Up until the late 19th century, natural lakes, ponds, and rivers were New Yorkers’ only free source of refuge from a hot summer day. But by 1911, and after decades of lobbying by social reformers, a dozen public bathhouses had finally been erected — and later at the height of the Great Depression, 11 massive swimming pools were built in a single year. What caused this shift from river swimming to swimming in pools created by large public works projects? And what led to a more modern shift of swimming in indoor facilities, and even the river once again? It’s time to hit the streets in Lower Manhattan to trace the origins, and future, of New York waterfront culture and recreation swimming.

Join New York Adventure Club as we explore the history of swimming pools through the Manhattan neighborhoods of the Lower East Side and Two Bridges, from the city’s very first bathhouses to the outdoor pools that changed — and will change — the course of New York’s recreation culture.

Led by Nora Cronin, the Development Director for + POOL — who’s also a researcher of the history of NYC public pools — our aquatic journey through portions of Lower Manhattan will include:

  • The origin story of public pools in New York City and how it came about with the public health movement of the early 20th century
  • A walk around Hamilton Fish Pool, one of the 11 pools built in 1936 as part of a public building collaboration between New York Mayor LaGuardia and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses
  • The positive impacts of massive public pools and recreation facilities, from becoming diverse and integrated community hangouts to safe places to learn to swim
  • A walk past a “secret bathhouse” hidden behind residential buildings that once served as one of NYC’s greatest public hygiene facilities
  • A look at a historic bathhouse facade that now serves a new purpose to NYC arrivals to the Lower East Side
  • A stop along the East River Esplanade where NYC’s “floating baths” once stood
  • A discussion of the revitalization of public pools in the modern era and how technology will shape the future of new pools in New York and beyond
  • A visit to Pier 35 Park, the future home of + Pool — NYC’s first water filtering public pool

See you there!

*Please bring water and comfortable shoes as we’ll be on our feet for most of the tour

**This event takes place in rain or shine

***This tour concludes at Pier 35 Park, near the Manhattan Bridge

About Nora

Nora Cronin is Development Director at Friends of + POOL, a nonprofit organization that is the driver of + POOL, a self-filtering floating pool seeking installation in NYC’s East River. She is also past President of Team New York Aquatics Board of Directors and a member and coach of their artistic swimming team, who have performed at NYC’s outdoor public pools. Nora is also an adjunct professor at CUNY whose research interests focus on public policy.


Event takes place rain or shine.

By attending a New York Adventure Club experience, you accept our terms of service.

Categories: In-Person, Neighborhood Tours


Hamilton Fish Recreation Center (Outside Main Entrance)
128 Pitt Street
New York, NY 10002 United States


New York Adventure Club
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