Souvenir Postcard (source?)

Piedmont Baths (1890-1939?) was a swimming complex at Bay Place and Vernon Avenue (currently the lower parking lot of Whole Foods Market). An imposing brick structure comprising a natatorium with galleries, dressing rooms, hot tubs, massage areas, and a café, it was built by a consortium of local developers and investors hoping to promote interest among (pre-earthquake) San Franciscans (who at the time had no such facility of their own) in the appeal of East Bay living.

Until 1904, the baths exploited waste steam heat from the cable-car powerhouse next door to heat the swimming tank. The salt water to fill it was drawn, alternately, from Lake Merritt and the Oakland Estuary, depending on the direction of tidal flow. Lake and estuary waters were pumped to a height of fifty feet, then gravity-fed through a “system of strainers” and one of the first implementations of charcoal, sand, and gravel filters of the Hyatt Patent. This claimed to rid the water of any solid matter or lingering “gasses”.

The therapeutic and recreational program claimed to account for “every variety of bathing appliances known to civilization” including a swimming tank of 70×120 feet, salt and fresh water tubs, barbershop, café, Turkish and Russian baths, springboards, trapeze, and a candy stand.

In October 1927, a major fire badly damaged the buildings, doing an estimated $100,000 in damage. Police and employees of Don Lee scrambled to move $350,000 of cars out of the nearby dealership.

See the Piedmont Baths overlaid in situ.

Piedmont Baths, architectural floor plan 1View of the Piedmont Baths from across Lake Merritt 1Piedmont Baths, Bay Place and Vernon (1913) 1

In what appears to have perhaps been part of a cute promotional event, maybe a contest, little Stella Irene Aydlott who lived at 813 Parkway (probably Park Way) was featured in her "Dogmobile," propelled by her dog, Jack. The "Dogmobile" was built by her father, Benjamin Aydlott, and her costume (a Piedmont Baths swimsuit) was created by her mother, Anna Aydlott. Jack, her dog, pulled the cart which promoted the Piedmont Baths resort. One wonders what Jack must have thought of this contraption.

Piedmont Baths and baseball grounds, as seen from 22nd Street, with cow in foreground. (1892) 1Stella Irene Aydlott, Jack and the Piedmont Baths "Dogmobile." (1913) 1

Links and References

  • “An Aquatic Theater”, Oakland Enquirer, 6 December 1890, vol xvii, p. 1
  1. Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Center
  2. Fire Sweeps Piedmont Bathhouse Oakland Tribune October 4, 1927