Thursday, July 21, 2011

The North End Beach




North End beach, 1917.


The North End beach has been covered on other web sites, but it's just so cool I had to discuss it here. At the end of the 19th Century there was a push to build bath houses to provide a place for the working poor living in tenements (often without bathtubs) to clean themselves. Boston's bath houses will be the subject of another entry, but over time there was a shift to providing for exercise as well as cleaning facilities, and swimming pools and gymnasiums were constructed in large numbers.

Among the swimming facilities built were the shoreline bathhouses like the L Street Bath House in South Boston and the North End Beach, shown above. The North End beach sat in the middle of a working industrial marine district, and it didn't seem to bother anyone. The North End was Boston's first tenement slum, home to the Irish when they first arrived in large numbers during the Famine. By the time this facility was built, the Irish were gone, and Jews and Italians had taken their place. I doubt there was any water testing done at the time, and that's probably just as well.

6 comments:

  1. Speaking of the "working industrial marine district": You'll notice the round blue object on the 1917 map, just left of the park. That is a tank with a capacity of about 2.5 million gallons, built in 1915 for the Purity Distilling Company, to hold molasses that it imported from the West Indies.

    Need I say more?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good catch. I hadn't noticed that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That is very interesting. That molasses container could make for an interesting post subject, Mark!

    ReplyDelete
  4. The molassas flood is so well known that I figured I'd stay away from it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mark, You mentioned that the North End Beach is covered on other websites, however in my research I have found little information regarding this beach at all. I'm especially interested in it's closing and the reasons behind that. Do you have any information leads as to why?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ashley - it's difficult to say why the beach closed. These things generally only get in the news when they open - they close in silence. The reason this beach, and the L Street bathhouse in South Boston opened was for public health reasons. Many people didn't have bathing facilities, and the city had begun building bath houses to give people a place to go to get clean. In time, people favored swimming over just taking baths or showers. I suspect that the commercial siting of the North End beach made it less attractive than South Boston, and with more apartments getting bath tubs, there was just less need for public facilities.

    ReplyDelete