The abandoned public bath - Photo by Keven Lavoie
The abandoned public bath

The abandoned public bath

The abandoned public bath

Hushion bath in Montréal

Montréal (Quebec), Canada

Built in 1914 at a time when running water was not accessible to everyone, this public bath located in the Petite-Bourgogne district (formerly St. Joseph) reflects the desire of the city to provide sanitary installations for its citizens at that time. The bath is appointed Hushion in honor of William James Hushion, alderman of the St. Joseph area from 1914 to 1928.

Abandoned in 1988 due to an arson fire, the building is now in a sorry state. Despite several rehabilitation projects put on the table, none of them have been completed and the building is now a poor witness of a bygone era which have been replaced by more modern buildings.

The story of a bygone era

This is a time when water was not a municipal property, and insanitary conditions were responsible for illnesses and several deaths per year. It's the end of the nineteenth century and Montreal's objective is to ensure satisfactory hygiene conditions on its territory. Neighborhoods are built at a frantic speed and workers are crowded into cramped buildings which have neither bath nor hot water.

In 1883, the construction of floating bathhouses constitutes the first municipal facility to implement new temporary hygienic applications. These baths consist of pools immersed directly into the existing watercourse, the Lachine Canal (Wellington bath) and the St. Lawrence River (first bath Hochelaga). In 1904, Montreal has five free seasonal municipal public baths (Wellington, Hochelaga, Gallery, St. Gabriel, St. Louis). We have to wait until 1908 to see the first heated building, with baths opened to the public all-year round

The construction of public baths in Montreal can be divided in two major waves: the first in the 1910s when a dozen institutions are built, and a second in the 1930s during the Depression. Due to the generalization of tubs in houses, their vocation changed gradually. Originally built purely for hygienic reasons (such places including a pool, lavatories, showers and even private baths), they are quickly changed for sports and recreational purposes. Many of these institutions have also become public pools or have been reassigned to other uses.

As we approached 1940, the vocation of public baths, swimming pools as they are now called, became fully recreational. We then observed the construction of multifunctional centers (swimming pool, library, community, medical center clinic, etc.) and large outdoor pools.

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