Durand Eastman Park has long been a popular recreational destination for Rochesterians. Last year while digging into the legend of the Lady in White I came across some old photos of the park’s construction, as well as some interesting old structures. The stone foundation of the old refectory is still there (often mistaken for a fort or castle ruins). But there was another interesting feature of the park which has long vanished. The bath house…
Due to the great popularity of the park, a bath house was constructed for public use in 1916 at the eastern end of the beach near Durand Lake. The drawing above shows the approximate location of the bath house. A concrete walkway took bathers down to the beach following a short walk beneath the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad tracks.
In 1949, unusually high water levels in Lake Ontario put Durand Eastman beach underwater and forced its closure until 1958 when the Moses-Saunders Power Dam was built on the St. Lawrence River. This dam enabled engineers to regulate the water level in Lake Ontario and allowed the City of Rochester to re-open Durand Eastman Beach in 1959.
After being opened for only seven years, pollution forced the beach to close again in 1966. The problem was the city sewer system which would often release raw sewage into the Genesee River and tributaries when heavy rains would overwhelm the system. In the 1970s water quality at the beach had begun to improve with the construction of additional sewage treatment plants and a longer outfall tunnel extending three miles out into Lake Ontario. Further improvements were made in the 1980s with the construction of a “deep rock” tunnel system beneath the city. These tunnels were designed to store and redirect much larger amounts of stormwater runoff, sending it to treatment facilities instead of dumping it into local waterways.
Despite the fact that Durand Eastman Beach remained officially closed and unguarded, from 1967 to 2005 it remained a popular location for swimming, sailing and picnicking. During the 1970s, the County Executive requested a feasibility study to determine whether the beach could be re-opened. One of the major stumbling blocks was the lack of available infrastructure, such as a bathhouse, and issues with public access. Simultaneously Monroe County re-opened Ontario Beach in Charlotte as a public bathing beach because of the presence of infrastructure at that site.
The photo above shows ticket agent, Frank Warren, at the Durand-Eastman Park bathhouse in August, 1921. He’s watching the lifeguards at work. Bud Martin and Roy Ackerman write the water and air temperatures on the chalkboard.
On the bright side, lifeguards have returned, and the County has recently requested bids for “bath house site preparations and improvements.” The City reports some 120,000 people visited the Durand beach last summer.
Tags: bath house, Bud Martin, Durand Beach, Durand Eastman Beach, Durand Eastman Park, Durand Lake, Frank Warren, Lake Ontario, Rochester, Rochester NY, Roy Ackerman
This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 at 7:49 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images, Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.