At the time of the construction, around 1916, the Maisonneuve Bath budget seemed to largely surpass the population in need. The front of the building on Morgan Avenue undoubtedly stands out with its columns, the sculptures at its top central area and at each extremity and the fountain “Les petits baigneurs” at the entrance level make this place an incredible architectural artwork. Luckily, the population can still use the place as a 4-seasons indoor public pool.
Montreal had a few public bath buildings on its territory. It turns out that these constructions have an intriguing story that concluded in a multiple aftermath.
The baths were not established for luxury or leisure, they were for sanitary and health purposes. Montreal’s industrialization was growing rapidly in the early 20th century and residences were without what we currently consider minimal hygienic equipment. Baths and hot water were not available in the low income apartments. For a few years, Montreal had the world’s highest urban mortality rates due to insalubrity. Some individuals were using the Canal Lachine or the St.Lawrence River to bathe but it was not the best water and public nudity also brought concerns. Plus, beaches were only accessible during the summer months. The solution: the city’s small communities built accessible indoor public baths, initially for men to have a closed and more private place to clean. For a few cents, a towel and some soap were provided to help workers to have access to hygienic options.
Soon, the public baths were not as vital since home sanitary minimums changed. The improvement of the population’s health was quickly noticeable and the public baths became a swimming place, a gathering place for kids and families and a place to learn how to swim.
Consequently, the baths became indoor pools but not all survived. Many of them have been demolished. Some were converted into other functions and some still stand to their original creation like the Maisonneuve Baths today known as Morgan Baths due to its location on Morgan Avenue.