Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center

Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center

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

This Recreation Center is named in honor of Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003), who was a world-class swimmer and the first woman to swim across the English Channel.

Born to German immigrants, Ederle was raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at 108 Amsterdam Avenue, above her father’s butcher shop. As a girl, her father taught her how to swim at their summer cottage in New Jersey. By her late teens, she was a champion swimmer and a member of the Women’s Swimming Association. Ederle went on to win several medals, including the gold at the Paris 1924 Olympics, and held twenty-nine national and world amateur records by 1925.

On August 6, 1926, Ederle became the first woman to swim across the English Channel. Departing from Cap Gris Nez, France, she landed on the shores of Kingsdown in Kent, England in 14 hours and 39 minutes.

Upon her return home, Ederle was greeted with a ticker tape parade in Lower Manhattan, the first woman to have that honor. She was a nationwide phenom, with the attention of the President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) praising her as “America’s Best Girl”.

Ederle taught swimming at the Lexington School for the Deaf in New York City after losing a portion of her hearing several years after the Channel Swim. She performed in the 1939 World’s Fair, and resided in Flushing, Queens for over 50 years. Gertrude Ederle died in Wyckoff, New Jersey in 2003 at the age of 98. 

First purchased by the City in 1906 for use as a playground, the park parcel spanned mid-block lots from West 59th to West 60th Streets. Soon thereafter, the 60th Street Bathhouse opened on site. The bathhouse was constructed as part of a larger effort to situate public baths in overcrowded working-class tenement districts for the purpose of greater personal hygiene and public recreation.  At that time, a majority of homes in the bordering Hell’s Kitchen community lacked indoor plumbing. By 1942, the park had expanded to its present size.

In 2015, the recreation center reopened after reconstruction which included state of the art building upgrades, a renovation of the existing swimming pool systems, a new first aid room and wet classroom, improvements to the gymnasium and a new cardio room. Designed by Belmont Freeman, an addition to the east side of the 60th Street building included new locker rooms, a multi-purpose room, bathroom facilities, an exterior comfort station, and fitness rooms.

In keeping with the mission of NYC Parks’ Recreation Division to further enable all New Yorkers to lead physically active lives, the Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center provides New Yorkers with free and low-cost opportunities for people to exercise, and a wide variety of programs that promote healthy living. Amenities and programs include cardio and strength rooms, group fitness classes, sports leagues, arts and cultural programs, instructional computer courses, and swimming classes.

Directions to Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center

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