While infrastructure, housing, and commercial ventures remain a steady demand in Manhattan’s bustling construction market, the area of historical preservation remains a common area of negotiation in a community that values both progress and reverence for its rich history and landmarks.
Over the past several years, many progressive New York City efforts have gone toward reworking older structures into habitable, modern spaces, a trend seen in projects such as the Empire State Dairy. Like it, there often comes a caveat to do with preserving the appearances of the original buildings, many of which, however, faded and obscure, often hold great historical significance to the area.
In similar fashion, Murdock Solon Architects has turned its gaze on the site of Bath House Studios, one of Manhattan’s premier event rental properties. Formerly the site of one of New York City’s fifteen public baths, the design firm has begun submitting proposals to the Landmark Preservation Commission to restore the original façade as well as make major updates to the interior.
538-540 East 11th Street, Bath House Studios, and History
Bath House Studios stands to benefit from a full restoration of the historic façade, as its identity is clearly tied with the facility’s history that once stood behind it.
The 538-540 East 11th Street former Free Public Bath is one of the better-preserved examples of its kind, built in the early 1900s at a time when the largely immigrant population did not have access to baths within their own homes. It remained open until the 1950s. In the mid-90s, the location was converted into the private studio of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Eddie Adams.
Vacated in 2004 after Adams’ unfortunate passing, the site would be designated a landmark in 2008.
What Will the Bath House Studio Project Involve?
The smallest changes to be made at 538-540 East 11th Street will happen indoors. The building’s ultra-modern interiors (including two studio venues and one residence) contrast heavily with the preserved exterior and call for the installation of a new A/C unit, new hardwood floors throughout, and a remodel of one of the kitchen areas. Windows on multiple floors will also be replaced.
The most significant efforts will go into that historic facade and the entryway. Originally designed by Arnold William Brunner, the facade features a familiar Neo-Italian Renaissance design that distinguishes it from other buildings on the street. These features will need to be preserved in exacting detail. Part of the work will be to better marry the more modern features that have been added in the time since the original bath house’s closure with that original, classic design.
Current plans—as they are written—involve a deep cleaning and repair work on the front elevation, to start, where weather stains and some damage are visible from the street. It will also involve adding a new metal gate at the entrance and trading out the current electrical lamp fixtures for flame-lit ones. New hand railings and treads on the entryway stairs will be installed, and finally, a number of windows are expected to be replaced.
The timeline for completion has not yet been announced.