February marks 100 years since Carlton residents first slipped into the cool water of their own public bath.
In 1916, municipal baths were primarily built for sanitation and hygienic purposes, rather than as recreational facilities.
A report on the purchase of land for the baths, which appeared in The Age in 1915 said: ‘With the growth of population in Carlton the need for a swimming basin in the district has become even more urgent and at last the baths committee has taken decisive action … The site is practically in the very heart of the most congested areas in Carlton, and is sufficiently large to permit of the erection of a bath with a basin 100 feet by 97 feet’.
The new outdoor ‘swimming bath’ was not heated or chlorinated, the water was changed once a week and separate bathing days were allocated for men and women.
Mixed bathing at Carlton Baths was approved by Council in 1929 and coincided with the first major improvements for the site. Five houses on Rathdowne Street were purchased and demolished to make way for a new entrance and change rooms, which included the most up-to-date features for the time, such as hot water for the showers.
Carlton resident Jenny Sargeant, who has been a regular at the baths for the past 15 years, remembers austere visits to the pool, in the not too distant past. Jenny said when she first joined the Carlton Baths it was pretty basic and the pool’s boiler was prone to breakdown. ‘There were no trees, no plants and no shade. There was only one indoor shower and not a lot of hot water’.
Since then the pool has undergone a $19.5 million redevelopment. ‘Now we have really lovely facilities’, she said. In addition to swimming, Jenny now attends yoga and spin classes. ‘I’m loving doing different things. The whole atmosphere is really lovely, it’s a very welcoming environment’.
The upgrades include improved sustainability features such as rainwater collection, solar hot water and passive ventilation. Accessibility modifications to the main pool include a ramp and re-levelled floor to make it easier for all members of the community to use the pool.
A new toddlers’ pool and modern play equipment have been added, while the centre’s landscaping has been improved with new trees and shade sails. These additions follow the completion of stage one works in 2012, which saw upgrades to the change rooms and new group fitness rooms, a cycling studio, weights room/gymnasium and reception area.
Carlton Baths Open Day: 13 February, 10am to 3pm
Celebrate 100 years of the Carlton Baths as the doors swing open to all for an epic pool party. Cool off in the freshly renovated main pool, or bring the family and enjoy the toddlers’ pool, new play equipment, petting zoo, face painting and sausage sizzle.
Residents, friends, family and visitors are invited to see how times have changed thanks to the recently completed redevelopment. Tour the new and improved facilities that formed part of the two-stage redevelopment and represent a $19.5 million investment in the Carlton community.
Carlton Baths is located at 216–248 Rathdowne Street, Carlton.
For more information, visit Carlton Baths.