Photo credit: MHT File Photo , 08/1975

Property Name: Walter's Bath No.2
Date Listed: 6/19/1979
Inventory No.: B-3733
Location: 900, Washington Blvd., Baltimore, Baltimore City

Description: The design of Walters Bath No. 2 is a very simplified form of Renaissance Revival popularized at the turn of the 20th century by architects such as McKim, Mead and White. In the Bath Commissioners’ report, the design is called ‘Free Colonial’. The Bath is a small brick building of 40 feet by 70.5 feet laid in Flemish bond with black headers and Maryland limestone trimming. The 40-foot façade of four bays facing south onto Washington Boulevard is the only part which is not strictly utilitarian in design. It is of one story on a high basement with a solid brick balustrade. In the center are two large windows which light the administrative office. These have heavy limestone lintels with oversized keystones and stone sills. A wide belt course of limestone forming the lintels for the two central basement windows is intersected by the two end doors. Each of the double doors has been set within an arched opening of brick with a plain tympanum, limestone impost blocks, and large keystone. The entrance vestibules have steps and wainscoting of McMullin gray marble and ceramic tile floors. Above the two central windows within the frieze there was, until recently plastered over, a stone plaque reading "THE WALTERS PVLIC BATHS". At the corner of the façade finishing the end toward the alley is an abstraction of a brick pilaster on a pedestal. The cornice of the pedestal is formed by the belt course inscribed with the date ‘1901’ and the base is an extension of the floor of a shallow terrace elevated midway between the sidewalk and the first floor level.

Significance: Walters Bath No. 2 was built for the City of Baltimore during 1901-02 by Henry Walters (1848-1931). Mr. Walters, a Baltimore art collector and philanthropist, contributed four bath houses to the city even though he was living in New York City after 1894. Located at Washington Boulevard (then known as Columbia Avenue) and Callender Alley, this second bath house was built so as to serve congested neighborhoods in southeast Baltimore in the Parkin Street area. It was designed by architect George Archer. Bathing establishments in Baltimore began as far back as 1800, but were considered a luxury. The Walters Baths were the first such structures designed in Baltimore not for recreation, but to provide an opportunity for cleanliness to all persons by offering them a shower, spray, or tub bath, not a swimming tank. These baths offered a solution to improve sanitary conditions in crowded, industrial cities. Walters Bath No. 2 is the only surviving building of the series of four which Walters gave the city. It was the duty of the Free Public Bath Commission to supervise these baths as well as comfort stations, swimming pools, school shower programs, and portable shower baths, all of which were operating by 1925. When it opened in 1902, Bath No. 2 charged three cents for adults and one cent for children for soap and towels, and 2 ½ cents per hour for laundry privileges. Later, baths cost five cents when one could afford the fee, a charge that remained until the public bath system was abolished at the end of 1959.




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