Walters Bath No. 2 opened in 1901 serving residents living in the busy industrial neighborhoods of southwest Baltimore. The construction of the bathhouse was supported by Henry Walters, art collector and philanthropist. Despite living in New York, Walters supported the construction of four bathhouses spread out spread out across the city to improve public hygiene and sanitation. Bath No. 2 on Washington Boulevard is the only one of the four that still stands.
Designed by architect George Archer, the bathhouse features a less-ornate version of the Renaissance Revival architecture that was popular at the turn of the twentieth century. The forty-foot front façade with four bays facing the street is the only part that is more than strictly utilitarian in design. A large stone plaque across the top of the building reads "THE WALTERS PUBLIC BATHS."
Unlike earlier luxurious bathhouses, which date back to the early nineteenth century in Baltimore, Walters bathhouses were erected to improve the sanitary conditions of the crowded industrial city that Baltimore had become. The bath offered a shower, spray, or tub bath to those who usually could not afford access to similar facilities. To oversee this step forward in public health, Baltimore City created the Free Public Bath Commission to supervise the bathhouses as well as comfort stations, swimming pools, school shower programs, and portable shower baths, all of which were operating by 1925.
When the building opened in 1902, Bath No. 2 charged three cents for adults and one cent for children for soap and towels, and 2 ½ cents per hour for laundry privileges. Later, the public bath system upped the fee to five cents, a charge that remained until the entire public bath system was closed at the end of 1959.
Watch our Five Minute Histories video on bath houses!