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6 Aug

Three Bathhouses To Visit in Brooklyn + the History

Ushering within the era of social wellness, bathing and sauna-based spas, like World Spa and Bathhouse, have gained traction in Brooklyn over the past few years, but bathhouses have actually been a part of on a regular basis life because the borough’s inception.

The truth is, the tradition dates back to the early nineteenth century, driven by quite a few aspects akin to a necessity for hygienic spaces, class, medical practices and immigration. Within the nineteenth and into the twentieth century, bathhouses supplied water for hygiene purposes to those living in buildings without indoor plumbing, based on Dominique Jean-Louis, chief historian, Center for Brooklyn History. 

“Loads of the event in the town follows the subway lines,” so “it’s an extended strategy of getting indoor plumbing situated as a typical,” she said of the time period. “Bathhouses do turn into these essential places where people can maintain hygiene.” 

Moreover, the concept of hydrotherapy, known within the 1800s as hydropathy or water cure, was a preferred medical practice, though on the time it took on many questionable forms, including sleeping in wet bed sheets, holding patients underwater or consuming an excessive amount of water. It could even be fatal, akin to within the case of John Roebling, designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. He opted to make use of water cure to treat a wound to his foot after surveying the bridge, which might ultimately cause him to have tetanus and die in 1869. Hydrotherapy, because it’s known today, can provide many advantages — think relaxing in a hot tub or boosting energy in an ice bath. 

“There’s this fashion that water becomes the poison and the antidote,” said Jean-Louis. 

The immigration that occurred following World War II and the rise of the Soviet Union led to an extra influx in bathhouses, specifically those driven by community and social gatherings somewhat than necessity. Lots of these were arrange in Brighton Beach, a predominantly Russian and Eastern European neighborhood.

From the ’60s to the ’80s, bathhouses also acted as secure, social spaces for the queer community, akin to The Everard Baths in Manhattan, considered one of the oldest because it opened in Latest York in 1888. Most of those locations were shut down within the midst of the AIDS crisis, though the tradition inside the community still stands.

While an array of mom-and-pop-style, traditional bathhouses still exist in Brooklyn, akin to The Mermaid Spa in Sea Gate, several recent models have gained popularity for his or her modern tackle the age-old practice, a lot of which include cold plunges, a treatment that’s trending.

Bathhouse, an ultra-trendy water oasis in Williamsburg, has been providing guests with a wellness-centric social space since 2019. On average, the placement has 225 appointments every day, with day passes starting from $45 to $70. 

“We didn’t necessarily improve making a sauna hot or making cold pools cold. We just desired to update it for what our market would consider good hospitality and design standards,” said brand manager Apneet Kaur of the trendy, dimly lit space.


Christian Atherton

CityWell, a Gowanus-based spa that opened in 2015, poses a more intimate experience for wellness seekers. The outdoor location, designed by architect Deborah Mariotti, is just 450 square feet and holds a few treatment rooms, soaking tub, dry cedar sauna and aromatherapy steam room, all inspired by founder Liz Tortolani’s travels abroad experiencing various kinds of spas and bathhouses. One-hour hydrotherapy sessions cost $195 per guest.

While the footprint could also be smaller, Tortolani is aiming to create a flourishing social space, reflecting the historical use of communal spas. She’s doing so by hosting regular community events including jazz nights, LGBTQIA+ sessions and women-only hours. 


“I like the thought of communal, but I feel the part that actually makes CityWell unique is the community part because on the larger ones, you don’t really get to see the identical people on a regular basis,” she said. 

At the opposite end of the dimensions is World Spa, a 50,000-square-foot location that opened last yr near Midwood, Brooklyn. The ability features an array of spa models traditional in several countries, including Eastern European banyas, Finnish saunas, a South American “clay and hay” sauna, Japanese onsen pools and Moroccan and Turkish hammams. In line with the corporate, every day attendance ranges from 200 to 900 people, depending on the season; day passes cost $80 to $180.

World Spa

“We desired to bring the Eastern European culture from Ukraine, Poland and Russia. That’s represented quite well and we wanted it to be as authentic because it gets, and that’s why we needed to travel to Minsk in Belarus. We went to Kiev. We went to Moscow and a couple of other places to check and see what will be the most effective representation,” said World Spa cofounder and project director Leonid Khanin. “All of those banyas, saunas were built there, disassembled, placed on container and came.”

For Khanin, the spa’s global approach is reflective of the Latest York population. 

“Latest York is a melting pot. We work hard. We would like the most effective and we deserve the most effective,” he said. “We knew that Latest Yorkers will reflect it.” 

While Manhattanites are known for flocking to the spa, Khanin noted they’ve garnered support from several communities, including Brighton Beach. And because the bathhouse concept has been central to Brooklyn, so have opportunities for community gatherings.

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