The crowded tenement apartments where many immigrants lived had no bathrooms.
Usually, the only source of water was in the hallway, so to take even a sponge bath, residents had to carry a bucket of water from the hall sink to the stove.
Not surprisingly, mortality rates among tenement dwellers were much higher than for other city residents.
Troubled by these unsanitary conditions, Simon Baruch worked for years to establish public bathhouses in New York City.
In 1901 New York City opened its first free municipal public bath house at 326 Rivington St., on the Lower East Side.
Dr. Simon Baruch Bathhouse, Rivington St., New York, NY. Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York
In 1912 Simon Baruch was named the founding president of the American Association for Promoting Hygiene and Public Baths, and in 1917 the city dedicated the original Rivington St. bathhouse to him.
Simon Baruch was a leading proponent of making good hygiene available to everyone, regardless of economic status.
Dr. Simon Baruch. Courtesy the Belle W. Baruch Foundation
He said that he had, "done more to save life and prevent disease in my work for public baths than in all...my work as a physician."