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The Bath House at Durand Eastman Beach

July 30th, 2014

This was the bath house at Durand Eastman Beach. It opened in 1916 and by 1949 was closed due to high water. [PHOTO: Rochester Municipal Archives]
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…

This drawing shows the approximate location of the Durand Eastman bath house. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
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 external link 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.

Use of beach peaked in the 1920s, when more than 50,000 people visited the beach in the summer of 1921. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Use of beach peaked in the 1920s, when more than 50,000 people visited the beach in the summer of 1921. At that time, tickets for a locker in the bath house cost 10¢.

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. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
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. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
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, the beach remained a popular location for swimming, sailing and picnicking from 1967 to 2005 when Mayor Duffy officially reopened it. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
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.

Frank Warren, ticket agent at the Durand-Eastman Park bathhouse, watches the lifeguards at work. Bud Martin and Roy Ackerman are writing the water and air temperatures on the chalkboard. August, 1921. [PHOTO: Albert R. Stone]
Durand Beach wouldn’t officially open again until 2005, and to this day the beach lacks any real amenities for bathers other than a few EZ-Johns and picnic tables.

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.

Lifeguards Roy Ackerman and Bud Martin are shown on duty at the beach at Durand-Eastman Park. August, 1921. [PHOTO: Albert R. Stone]
On the bright side, lifeguards have returned, and the County has recently requested bids external link for “bath house site preparations and improvements.” The City reports some 120,000 people visited the Durand beach last summer.

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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.

8 Responses to “The Bath House at Durand Eastman Beach”

  1. Ruth Nederlk says:

    Yes I remember the structure for the bathhouse but was not used in the 40’s either. Nice park for picnics and had zoo also in the 50’S . Sad loss. Nice for family

  2. Bath House at Eastman is a grand idea!

  3. Jason Haremza says:

    When did this bath house close? Demolished?

  4. Carl says:

    There was a small section of this still standing in the 1960’s. If I remember correctly it was light green stucco with cream trim. Most of the building was gone, but my grandmother (who used to take us to Durand-Eastman) always would say what a beautiful bathhouse the beach used to have.

  5. Justaguy says:

    Well I’ll be…… after 44 years as an East Irondequoit’er I finally know what that ‘tunnel’ to the beach was for. We were told it was for the cops to have access. At some point the Irondequoit cops bought two 4 wheel drive vans specifically to patrol the beach. They were in the ‘new’ silver/black paint job that replaced the brown/white with the Indian Chief door symbol….. everyone mocked the new color scheme including our next door neighbor who was IPD.

    Back in the early 80’s you could still drive down onto the beach ‘legally’ and I have fond memories of my step-dad’s K5 Blazer and Scout bouncing down the rocky trail at the west end of the beach…… because they couldn’t fit through ‘the tunnel’ by the Highlands. There were still remnants of the old railroad there and people would use the old ties for bonfires while we boys loved coming across old rail spikes. At the beginning of summer the sand would be covered with dead fish that our dogs (yep, dogs off leash were ‘legal’ then too) loved rolling in and anytime our dogs escaped from our house on Titus Ave we knew to head towards the park because that was where they were headed.

    By the time I was in High School in the mid 80’s things had changed. No more trucks on the beach, the IPD and Sheriff’s patrolled there constantly to break young people’s balls about everything from racing on Lakeshore to bonfires to just plain hanging out doing nothing at all. I can remember 1 time when a City cop showed up and made us dump our beer out and none of us knew why he was there as nobody I knew had any idea that the park was actually in the City limits, but compared to the jackbooted IPD and Sheriff’s we all would’ve preferred City cops any day of the week.

    As far as water quality goes, I can’t recall a single time in my school aged years ever hearing about water quality issues at Durand or Charlotte or the beaches being ‘closed’ because of it.

    Those days in the late 80’s were the end of an entire way of life for Irondequoit and Rochester residents. Between NIMBY’s, the green movement people, violent scumbag punks and Mayor Dufus putting the park back under City parks/cops I don’t even bother going even though I still live in East irondequoit. I remember the park and beach in the way Chicago’s Saturday In The Park described NYC’s Central Park. The last time I went for a walk down the nature trail a kid was stabbed to death that night at a bonfire party. It’s a shame, a damn shame.

  6. Kittrell says:

    I graduated from Eastridge High in 1979, and I could swear we climbed inside the old abandoned bathhouse sometime during my teen years, 1969 and into the 70’s. It was on a dare, and I remember I got a good scare out of dropping down through a high window and into the overgrown mossy stone structure. Maybe it isn’t torn down completely~could it be buried?

  7. It is possible that maybe the concrete foundation is still buried beneath the berm. I had planned to take a walk over there this summer to check it out but I never made it.

  8. touringkayaker says:

    I graduated from IHS in the early 70’s and the bathhouse was still there, before we had driver licenses we would skip school and take to the woods. We could get to Durand and only cross 3 roads. We’d climb into the old structure and poke around, it was really just an old musty relic at that time. When Lakeshore Blvd and beach access was improved (I think the late 70’s maybe early eighties), the berm for the old RR tracks were mostly removed and the bathhouse was torn down.


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