I grew up in Brighton Beach, and one place down there I knew quite well was the Brighton Beach Baths. The Baths are gone now, in its place a residential development which I’ve only seen from the outside. Thinking about this bit of my childhood which is now gone forever, I decided to do a little research and discover some things about the Baths I never knew before even as I splashed about in the kiddie pool, learned to swim in the shallow end of the giant, salt-water main pool, or learned to dive in the smaller, but much deeper (9 feet down) diving pool, complete with a 10-feet-high high-diving board (which I jumped off of once!)
From the paddle-ball courts in the north end, to the miniature golf course on the west, the Baths was my village every summer for about fifteen years.
The Brighton Beach Baths opened in 1907, and by the time I got there in the late 60’s to mid-70’s the combination beach club community gathering place could boast a membership surpassing 12,000 individuals. Aside from the handball-paddle courts and mini-golf that I already mentioned, there were also paddle-tennis courts, a large circular cafeteria, places to play mah-jongg, pinochle, chess and checkers, a playground with metal swings in the shape of horses, access to the beach, and amazingly, an outdoor theater that hosted famous entertainers of the comedic or singer varieties. I believe I saw Red Skelton and Buddy Hackett perform there, and perhaps even Sammy Davis Jr., if memory serves.
Despite lively protests against tearing down such a beloved landmark of Brighton Beach and Brooklyn history, in 1994 the Baths were closed down. In 2000 the Oceana Condominium and Club arose to take the place of the Baths, one of the first of many such ambitious projects which will forever change the look and feel of an amazing place called Brighton Beach.