During the Great Depression, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, with the support of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), undertook the development of public recreational facilities in underserved neighborhoods. The circular Bath House was the entrance and centerpiece of an outdoor pool complex, one of 11 such projects that opened in the summer of 1936 in every borough of the city. Herbert Magoon, an architect and Parks Department employee, used the low-cost materials mandated by federal regulations to design a lively space in streamlined Moderne style. It was an immediate success, drawing 3,500 visitors on its opening day.
Deteriorated by heavy use and the Parks Department’s lack of funding, the Sunset Play Center finally received city financing to restore the facility in 1982. The Parks Department called its reopening in 1984, “an essential part of the revitalization [of] the entire public recreational infrastructure of the city.” The LPC has called it, “among the most remarkable public recreational facilities ever constructed in the US.”
Photographs 1,2 by Malcolm Pinckney/NYC Parks
Photographs 3,4 by Carl Forster/Landmark Preservation Commission