Bath House Dreams

Fante-Leone. Photo by Rachel Hildebrandt

The bathhouse that served the Italian Market neighborhood for nearly a century stands vacant. The overgrown Fante-Leone pool, located at the northwest corner of Montrose and Darien Streets, has been closed since 2004.

Fante-Leone was the subject of Jamie Gaffke Shindell’s 2006 historic preservation master’s thesis at the University of Oregon. Because the pool was sold to a private developer it is unlikely to be restored to public use, says Gaffke Shindell in “Public Urban Pools as Significant Social Spaces: Revitalizing Philadelphia’s Montrose and Darien Streets Pool.” Nevertheless, she says, it would best serve its community as an indoor pool or as a sensitively landscaped pocket park. Gaffke Shindell asserts that as either a pool or a park, the site could retain its historic character while also increasing the diversity of public spaces around the Italian Market.

Rendering of park at Fante-Leone pool by Jamie Gaffke Shindell

From roughly 1895 until 1930, during an era of social reform, the City of Philadelphia and the Public Baths Association built bathhouses in densely-populated, immigrant neighborhoods like Southwark and Kensington. The vast majority of the residents of those communities had no indoor plumbing, thus they were unable to bathe or wash clothes.

In 1905, the city built the Fante-Leone pool at the center of an impossibly dense Italian and Russian Jewish immigrant neighborhood. Originally, the single concrete basin was an indoor pool, fully enclosed within a building bearing a classical facade and ornate entryway. Sometime between 1917 and 1920, amidst growing concern about hygiene, the roof and upper story were removed. After providing relief from summer heat for almost a century, the well-utilized pool (and nine others) was closed due to budget cuts.

Fante-Leone today. Photo by Rachel Hildebrandt

The Fante-Leone pool is rare example of its kind. Only three others exist – at Front and Thompson in Kensington (c. 1915), 20th and Hunting Park in Nicetown (1923), and Ridge and Ferry in Manayunk (c. 1930).

The pool’s owner since 2006, Florio Mega Construction, began trying to sell the property in 2007. It is currently listed with Coldwell Banker Preferred for $477,500.

About the author

Rachel Hildebrandt, a recent graduate of PennDesign, is a native Philadelphian who is passionate about the changing city she inhabits. Before beginning her graduate studies in historic preservation with a focus on policy, Rachel obtained a B.A. in Psychology from Chestnut Hill College and co-authored two books, The Philadelphia Area Architecture of Horace Trumbauer (2009) and Oak Lane, Olney, and Logan (2011). She currently works as a program associate at Partners for Sacred Places.



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Urban Decay As American As Beer And Apple Pie

Urban Decay As American As Beer And Apple Pie

February 21, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow taps into Philly beer history and frozen pie trivia at the old Adam Scheidt Brewing Company plant on North 9th Street > more

Unlisted Philadelphia: Atlantic Snuff Company

Unlisted Philadelphia: Atlantic Snuff Company

February 17, 2017  |  Unlisted Philadelphia

Architectural illustrator Ben Leech spotlights unique and significant buildings not protected on the local register with his series, Unlisted Philadelphia. In this installment, a High Victorian in Chinatown that's still up to snuff > more

Inside The Empty, Gilded Halls Of Elkins Estate

Inside The Empty, Gilded Halls Of Elkins Estate

February 16, 2017  |  Last Light

Photographer Kris Catherine gives an exclusive look inside the opulent mansions of Elkins Estate > more

Dial Up For The Latest Election News

Dial Up For The Latest Election News

February 14, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. dials up the Evening Telegraph Information Bureau, a pilot communications service in 1905 that provided Keystone Telephone customers with news and information at a moment's notice > more

La Salle University Threatens Germantown Landmarks

La Salle University Threatens Germantown Landmarks

February 9, 2017  |  Soapbox

On Friday, the Historical Commission will consider legal protections for two historic Germantown homes. Owners La Salle University will oppose the nominations to retain their right to demolition. Arielle Harris makes a case for saving these two Wister family properties and reveals La Salle's long tradition of razing neighborhood landmarks > more

Paging Dr. Typewriter: Healing Old Tech On Fabric Row

Paging Dr. Typewriter: Healing Old Tech On Fabric Row

February 8, 2017  |  Walk the Walk

Bryan Kravitz brings old Remingtons back from the dead at his repair shop in Mt. Airy and typing salon in South Philly. Joe Brin has the story > more