Hamilton Fish Park

Hamilton Fish Pool

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

For outdoor pool details, including hours and rules, please visit our Free Outdoor Pools page.

What was here before?

A formal neo-classical park opened here in 1900 to serve the densely-packed Lower East Side community. A landmarked Beaux-Arts bathhouse, designed by the renowned architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings and built in 1898, is the only surviving feature of the original park and was inspired by Charles Girault's Petit Palais in Paris.

How did this site become a pool?

The summer of 1936, deep in the Great Depression, broke local heat records. Hamilton Fish Pool was one of eleven immense outdoor public pools the Parks Department opened that summer. The heroically scaled pools project was financed by the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), as part of a massive effort to alleviate adverse health conditions and provide safe recreation in predominantly working-class communities.

The pools were not just huge but also examples of state-of-the-art engineering and fine design. Each pool had separate swimming, diving and wading areas, perimeter bleachers, and bathhouses whose locker rooms served as gyms during non-summer months. Led by architect Aymar Embury II and landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, the planning team produced a series of distinct complexes, each one sensitive to its site and topography. Massive filtration systems, heating units, and even underwater lighting provided a more controlled bathing experience than the often treacherous and polluted waterways in which the City’s masses had traditionally swum. The palette of pools building materials was mainly inexpensive brick, concrete and cast stone, but the styles ranged from Romanesque Revival to Art Deco.

The outdoor facility at Hamilton Fish Pool, measuring 165 by 100 feet, was designed to accommodate 1,700 bathers at a time. Its spare styling contrasts and complements the more ornate adjacent bathhouse. When the pool opened on June 24, 1936 the New York Times commented that it “lessen[ed] the attractiveness of the disease-laden East River and also helps to keep children off the streets.” Hamilton Fish Pool was so highly regarded that the U.S. Olympic Team used it for practice sessions for the 1952 Helsinki Games. The pool and play center were designated an official New York City Landmark in 1982

Who is this pool named for?

The pool and park take their name from one of a long line of public officials, Hamilton Fish (1808-1893).  Hamilton’s father, Nicholas Fish (1758-1833), married Elizabeth Stuyvesant in 1803 and distinguished himself as Adjutant-General of New York State, Supervisor of the Revenue under President George Washington, and alderman of New York City.  Hamilton Fish graduated from Columbia University and became a lawyer in 1830. His political career included terms as U.S. Representative, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State.

Directions to Hamilton Fish Park

Know Before You Go

There are currently 2 service interruptions affecting access within this park.

Recreation CentersHamilton Fish Recreation Center

New York City’s recreation centers and indoor pools remain closed to the general public until further notice to provide COVID-19 related services as well as free childcare options for children who are scheduled for blended learning. To learn more or to apply for the childcare program, please visit the New York City Department of Education’s Learning Bridges program page.

Once we reopen, NYC Parks will extend all existing recreation center memberships to cover the length of time we are closed to the general public.


Recreation CentersHamilton Fish Recreation Center

New York City’s recreation centers and indoor pools remain closed to the general public until further notice to provide COVID-19 related services as well as free childcare options for children who are scheduled for blended learning. To learn more or to apply for the childcare program, please visit the New York City Department of Education’s Learning Bridges program page.

Once we reopen, NYC Parks will extend all existing recreation center memberships to cover the length of time we are closed to the general public.


Highlights

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