Friday, September 21, 2018

Professor Theodore Kadish Natatorium which stood at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard in Chicago, 1880s.

The Kadish Natatorium was a private venture. In the early 1900s, Chicago Park Commissions began building natatoria, facilities with showers, indoor swimming pools, and gyms, to provide public bathing and recreational opportunities to the city's increasingly crowded neighborhoods.
The Kadish Natatorium at Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard in Chicago.
By 1915, Mayor Carter H. Harrison II and the Special Park Commission had hit upon the idea of building natatoria adjacent to city pumping stations to take advantage of excess steam generated there.

Three were eventually built, one being shown in the artist rendering above, the Central Park Avenue (Jackson) natatorium. Another was called the Roseland (later Griffith, in Block Park) and the Springfield Avenue natatorium, later named the Beilfuss Natatorium. 

At the Beilfuss Natatorium, competitions and swim meets were covered by the newspapers. There were indeed rings that could be lowered and trapezes, and often they were lowered and we'd take turns running and jumping and swinging on them, or missing and splashing which was great fun anyways.

The place was always very hot and you could hear the pumping station moaning when you were under the water. There was one older man who worked there and he would line up all the kids who couldn't swim and give them lessons, which basically consisted of him pushing them in the shallow water while all of the "good swimmers" watched out for them and yelled encouragement at the opposite end of the pool.

NOTE: Swimming was not a co-ed activity in the Victorian era (or before) because boys and men swam naked. The men in this illustration are wearing trunks. I believe that the artist added swimming trunks to the illustration so it could be used in the newspapers.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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