Metropolitan Recreation Center
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Metropolitan Pool, in the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn, was built under the auspices of Borough President Edward Riegelmann in 1922. The pool and bath, constructed at an original cost of $148,272, were designed by the noted architect Henry Bacon (1866-1924). It was the eighth of nine municipal bath houses erected by the Department of Public Works, in order to promote public health, hygiene and recreation. In 1922 annual use of the city’s bathhouses was a remarkable 13 million visits. Overseeing Brooklyn municipal construction were Joseph A. Guider, Commissioner of Public Works and James J. Byrne, Superintendent of Public Buildings, each of whom later served as Borough President.
In 1935 the structure was turned over to the Department of Parks to operate as a recreational facility. At that time the pool had lockers for 248 males and 37 females. Average monthly attendance in the mid-1930s was 20,620 and shower usage was 7,675 a month. The building underwent repairs in 1936 and again in 1977, prior to the massive reconstruction completed in 1997. Architect Bacon was known for his interest in ancient Greek architecture, and his design in 1920 for Metropolitan Pool combined functionalism with certain neo-classical details, such as the pediment on the facade. The exterior of brick with limestone trim and a granite base, however, is modest in comparison with the interior’s dominant feature, a soaring skylight supported by a vaulted steel frame above the pool area. Glazed terra-cotta was used as an interior finish for the natatorium (the name applied to indoor swimming pools in the early 20th century).
Bacon achieved renown for his design of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., completed in the same year as Metropolitan Pool. He was awarded the American Institute of Architects gold medal by President Warren G. Harding for this work in 1923. Early in his career Bacon worked for the distinguished New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, and frequently collaborated with sculptor Daniel Chester French. He designed the base for the Lafayette monument in Prospect Park (1917), the Carl Schurz monument in Morningside Park (1913), and two types of Central Park luminaires (1908/09).
Metropolitan Pool measures 30 feet by 75 feet. Its depth ranges from 4 to 9 feet. Its recent $4.88 million capital restoration blends original building elements with new uses. It includes complete reconstruction of the roof, interior rooms, and building systems, as well as window replacement and additional security gates. The dual mezzanine areas, previously underutilized, have been restructured to accommodate community space and a fitness room.
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