The only surviving South African indoor pool from the turn of the century, used for the SA Swimming championships 1923 (below).
The elegance of Long Street survives the many facelifts it has undergone. The old poster shows how the changing cubicles lined the pool before the renovtion.
June 2013 City Views article
The Long Street Baths: a pool with a history
For more than a hundred years, the swimming pools at the top of Long Street have provided generations of Central City swimmers with a place to play, relax and perfect their stroke. In the early years, after the facility was built in 1908, the pools were also known as the “slipper baths” because at that time many of the blocks of flats in the area did not have bathrooms, so people would walk over to the baths in their slippers to have a shower. In 1926 the Turkish baths were added, allowing people to escape the drizzle of winter or the howling southeaster of summer for an authentic hammam experience that included a cold plunge pool, hot saunas and a massage. Today, although the Turkish baths no longer enjoy the services of an in-house masseur, they still provide an oasis of peace and quiet in the busy centre of the city.Almost equidistant between mountain and sea, the baths are located at a crossroads at the top of the city’s main entertainment thoroughfare, within sight of museums, restaurants, bars, hotels, a church and a mosque. This cosmopolitanism is reflected in the users of the baths, which have always included a diverse cross-section of city residents.
This is still true today: the pool and saunas of the Turkish baths are frequented by locals, tourists, business people, pensioners and schoolchildren alike.
The architect - Karinina Ingwersen
“I first got to know the baths as a swimmer, since I come here to swim myself every week. Over time I started noticing the signs of wear and tear on the building. Since I am an architect, I decided to look into an overall upgrading and rejuvenation project, including realistic proposals focused on bringing in revenue. After meetings with the Council, I realised nothing would happen without a full set of drawings (which apparently was not available) illustrating proposals, and also a motivational report with photographs as references.
So I set out to prepare this myself, showing what the baths could be like if some time and money were invested in them. I also have a keen interest in Middle Eastern architecture (having visited the area often) so I would love to see the Turkish baths restored. Imagine if we created mosaics around the arches in the baths … something authentic to celebrate the fact that, to my knowledge, these are the only public Turkish baths in South Africa. Cape Town is now very much a global city and as such I think the baths should be a world-class facility. As a heritage site, the past must of course be respected, but just think what could be the outcome if the facilities were upgraded, a new colour scheme introduced and something really exciting done with the long mural wall. We must also ensure that the pools can be properly maintained in the future.
While they are a municipal amenity, I believe they could become partially self-sustaining. This could be achieved by creating a coffee bar, with TV and WiFi, in the centre space opening and spilling onto the mezzanine balcony above the pool. This could be used by swimmers and spectators, and for events. Furthermore, the addition of a new large room near the back of the building with a large TV and kitchenette could be used for training life-savers, lectures, a fitness gym, classes and even for kiddies’ pool parties. If all goes forward as we hope, we plan to establish the Friends of the Long Street Baths around September as a support platform for this envisaged project.
Lastly, imagine if we tapped some of the piped water from the Camissa line – originally from a Table Mountain source – which runs somewhere in front of the building, to create a fountain outside under the palms. See, there are so many positive possibilities here!”