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Melbourne City Baths

This popular health and fitness centre opened for public bathing on 9 January 1860, when Melbourne's primary water supply, the Yarra River, was polluted, water-borne diseases were endemic and bathrooms were rare. In the first year a reputed 79 096 males and 2950 females enjoyed the new amenities, located on the triangular site at the corner of Swanston and Franklin streets. The building included a swimming pool, public washhouse, family bathrooms, and first- and second-class 'slipper' bathrooms all with separate male and female facilities. By 1886 the facility was in decline. Inspectors reported 'an unwholesome scum' on the surface of the water and general dilapidation, and the building was closed in 1899. New baths, offering segregated facilities, opened on 23 March 1904, to a competition-winning design by E.J. and J.J. Clark. Mixed bathing, introduced in 1947, and the 1956 Olympic Games, brought increased popularity, the facilities now used primarily for swimming. By the 1970s patronage had declined but the Builders' Labourers Federation stopped Melbourne City Council's planned demolition by designating the site a 'worker's pool'. After a $4 million renovation the baths were officially reopened on 14 August 1983. The Edwardian Baroque building is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

Katherine Blashki