One of my current projects is preparing a National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Greenwood Memorial Pool and Bath House in Gardner, Massachusetts. The building is city-owned, and up until 2012 was still an operating public pool. It was also used for a number of years by the Gardner High School swim team, which won numerous state championships while practicing at the pool. However the building has long suffered from maintenance issues, and in the fall of 2012 the city decided to close it. An early 1990s outdoor pool that sits to the west of the building is still opened and maintained by the city. Local preservationists hope to convince the city to reopen the pool, or to reuse the building while preserving its historic integrity. Since its construction in 1914, the building has been an important part of Gardner's landscape.
Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, Gardner developed a large furniture making industry. Today it is known as the Chair City and the Furniture Capital of New England. One of the men credited with jump-starting Gardner's furniture industry is Levi Heywood. He and his brothers founded the Heywood-Wakefield Furniture Company, which made furniture in Gardner well into the 20th century. Heywood's descendants were prominent philanthropists, donating numerous buildings to the city they called home. Among these were the Levi Heywood Library, the Heywood Hospital, and the Greenwood Memorial Pool and Bath House.
In 1914, Levi Heywood's grandson, Levi Heywood Greenwood, wrote a letter to the citizens of Gardner. In it, he proposed to build a bath house at his own expense, which he would then donate to the city, to be maintained by the city for the use of its citizens. Greenwood intended the building to be a monument to his parents, Alvin M. and Helen R. Greenwood. At Town Meeting in April of 1914, Gardner's citizens accepted Greenwood's offer, and the Greenwood Memorial Bath House was opened on July 6, 1915. The Bath House had been opened for three days before that, and 5,000 visitors came in just those three days. The Bath House was built on a 3.5-acre lot at the southern end of Crystal Lake. To its west, a low-lying area was maintained as an outdoor swimming pool. The bottom of this "pool" was paved with asphalt in the 1970s, and it was filled in after a modern in-ground pool was constructed just a little further west on the lot in the early 1990s.
The Bath House was an important addition to the city of Gardner. Even in the first few decades of the 20th century, many residents still did not have clean running water in their houses. The Bath House provided a cheap place for residents to get clean. It was common in industrial towns for those residents who had become wealthy to give back; Massachusetts is full of libraries and public buildings named for local philanthropists. Gardner was a thriving industrial city at the time, and the Bath House stands as a symbol of that industrial past. Throughout the 20th century, even as Gardner's industrial base began to decline, the Bath House was available for citizens to use for a very nominal fee. Even into the 1960s, the original 1915 fee for use was maintained.
The building was constructed at a cost of $80,000, and it was designed by the firm of Wiley & Foss of Fitchburg. It was done in the Classical Revival style, which was incredibly popular at the turn of the 20th century for public buildings. Important features include the Doric columns on either side of the main entry, the patterned brickwork at the front and sides of the building, and the carved exposed rafter tails visible at the eaves. One interesting feature of the building that ties it even more closely to Gardner's furniture industry is the way it was originally heated. When the Bath House was first built, the Heywood-Wakefield Furniture Company factory was just a few blocks away. To heat the pool, steam was pumped from the furniture factory to the Bath House basement.
Below is a gallery of the interior of the Greenwood Memorial Pool and Bath House