Monday, January 23, 2012

Boston Takes a Bath: Part I

From the 1848-49 Boston Directory.

Braman's Bath House, bottom of Chestnut street.

Braman's Baths, 1852, bottom of Chestnut street. Click on image for larger view (BPL collection).

Braman's Baths, close view.

I came to the topic of public baths when I found the book Washing the great unwashed: public baths in urban America 1840-1920, by Marilyn T. Williams. When I began investigating, I found the subject could be split into two sections - an early, 19th Century period of private baths, and a later turn of the century development of municipal facilities. I'll begin with the early era, and do a second post on the municipal baths next week.

The maps above show Braman's Baths, which opened in 1835, and sat on pilings in the Charles river near Beacon street and the new Public Garden. . At the time, that meant salt water. The building was two stories, 80x50 feet, with 50 bathing rooms and warm and cold water. The pool itself seems to have floated on the water. People took swimming lessons at Bramans, and we can imagine they cooled off in the summer's heat as well. In the fall, the bathing houses were towed up river and grounded for the winter.

The following list is from the 1848-49 Boston Directory. The baths at Craigie's and Warren bridge baths, and hte Morey bath of Western ave. (now Beacon street through the Back Bay) would have been floating in the Charles river. The others, including a second Braman's bath, were either in a hotel, or were 'medicated' baths.

Bruce Cyrus - Craigie's bridge bath
Cyrus Blodgett 233 Washington st. rear, Marlboro hotel
Henry Blodgett, Eastern Exchange Hotel, Eastern Railroad wharf.
Truman Morey - Western ave. (Beacon st)
Warren A. Veazie, Warren Bath House and Refectory, Warren bridge.
American House, 42 Hanover
Henry May, 1 Cambridge st. (medicated).
M.M. Miles, 13 Howard (medicated).
J. Braman, Tremont House.


  1. Fascintating! It appears that today this is the about where the Hatch Shell now stands or it's where Storrow Drive turns north right the Beacon St./Arlington St. exit.

  2. Now that is a book I never heard of before, off to Amazon!!