Melbourne City Baths

Details of second-class facilities  Details of roof  Section drawings

Separate entrances for men and women can still be seen on the fa├žade of the Melbourne City Baths, but many other details of this building have changed since its opening in 1904.  At that time, the majority of Melbourne’s population did not bathe at home - the Baths were as much about cleanliness and public health as exercise or recreation. Plans for the building by JJ Clark show that all facilities were segregated.  A swimming pool, 16 slipper baths, six spray baths and a gymnasium were provided for men and another pool and baths were provided for women. There were also Turkish and vapour baths, a Jewish ceremonial bath and a laundry. Class distinctions were apparent with second class facilities in the basement and first class on the floor above.

Melbourne was known as ‘Smellbourne’ in the late 19th century as water and waste management systems struggled to keep pace with the rapid expansion of population following the gold rushes and in the boom that followed. The 1904 Melbourne City Baths complex replaced facilities opened in 1860.

Facilities began to fall into disrepair in the 1930s due to economic constraints and then due to reduction in numbers of people living in Melbourne’s inner areas, and by the 1970s the building was threatened by closure and demolition.  This threat averted, the distinctive building was refurbished in the 1980s and today provides facilities for a city population that is expanding again.

Melbourne City Baths

Details of second-class facilities, from drawing number 2
Melbourne City Baths, 1904
Ink and watercolour with pencil annotations, on paper backed with linen
Architect: JJ Clark
JJ and EJ Clark 1981.0089.00014

Details of roof, from drawing number 4
Melbourne City Baths, 1904
Ink and watercolour with pencil annotations, on paper backed with linen
Architect: JJ Clark
JJ and EJ Clark 1981.0089.00020

Section drawings, drawing number 7

Melbourne City Baths, 1904
Ink and watercolour with pencil annotations, on paper backed with linen
Architect: JJ Clark
JJ and EJ Clark 1981.0089.00025