Recreation Center 54

E. 54 St. bet. 1 Ave. and 2 Ave.


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

East 54th Street Recreation Center opened in 1911 as a public bathhouse with 79 showers for men and 59 for women. Built during an era of socially progressive initiatives, the center’s original purpose was to provide sanitary facilities for the city’s working classes.

A state legislative act in 1895 mandated the construction of free public baths in cities of populations of 50,000 or more. Bathhouses such as the one formerly at this site, were built in overcrowded working class tenement districts for the purposes of public hygiene and recreation. A majority of homes lacked indoor plumbing at that time, and public showers and baths were a civic response to what Mayor William Strong (1827-1900) called the needs of “the great unwashed.”

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Recreation CentersRecreation Center 54

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.

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