Dependable Erection

Monday, October 05, 2009

Duke Park bathhouse

I don't blog about the old bathhouse in Duke Park very often despite that it's consumed a disproportionate amount of my waking hours the past 6 years. Long time readers know the story - the old pool sat on top of a culverted branch of the Ellerbe Creek. The culvert, built probably back in the 1910s, didn't always do it's job. Sinkholes under the pool cracked it and forced its relining several times over the years. After the 1993 season, the city decided it would be ineffective to reline the pool yet again, and probably too expensive to replace the pool. So they shut it down to think about what to do with it.

For 11 years.

It wasn't until 2004 that the city, after a fairly lengthy effort on the part of neighbors, finally removed the pool and replaced it with the meadow which now hosts the annual Beaver Queen Pageant. (They didn't do such a hot job with the meadow either. After 5 years of complaining about the piss poor job of filling the hole and the drainage problems created by the substandard work, it looks like the city will be getting around to redoing the meadow sometime in the current fiscal year. Yay.)

The bathhouse, a structure that dates back to the Great Depression, was shuttered when the pool closed. We (meaning both the Duke Park Neighborhood Association and the Duke Park Preservation Initiative, a small 501(c)3 based in the neighborhood) have been attempting to negotiate a lease with the city since 2004, in order to renovate the bathhouse and turn it into a community center. So far, we've been unsuccessful.

Gary ran a particularly great post on the pool and the bathhouse early this year. Go read it if you have few minutes.

So, why write about the bathhouse today?

Sometime over the weekend, the building was broken into. Two members of Citizens On Patrol noticed some damage to the Acadia Street side of the building on Sunday, and upon closer inspection determined that someone had pried off the wooden slats in one of the windows, and then busted two of the doors in the back of the building.

This was the first time i'd been in the building since, i think 2004. At that time, it was being used by the city of Durham as a warehouse for old parking tickets. Probably 2 dozen boxes of them, maybe more. No idea if they had been paid or not. We did indicate to the Parks and Recreation Department that this probably wasn't the best use of a historic structure. We were told they'd be removed promptly.

Apparently they were. Although we have no way of knowing for sure that they weren't carted away by whoever broke in to the building.

I got to inspect the damage with some other DPNA board members when the police responded to the report of the break-in. Here's what we found:

Busted bathroom fixtures.

The remains of a swimming pool test kit and first aid kit. Note the GTE phonebook in the background.

A City of Durham "Counter Deposit" from 2002 for $20, 033.50. There's some identifying information if anyone wants to try some identity theft on the city. Assuming they're still using the same bank account.

Some utility bills from 1996. (Names blurred out in Photoshop.)

Actually, a lot of old utility bills.

Not sure if this is just mold, or if someone tried to use this as kindling at one point in time.

So, now we know why the city hasn't wanted to lease the bathhouse to a community non-profit in order to have a community center. They've been using it for overflow file storage. I think we can all agree that storing 13 year old water bill receipts and 7 year old bank deposit receipts constitutes the best possible use of one of Durham's few (and possibly only) surviving WPA projects.

I will bow to the superior knowledge of our city administrators, and withdraw from the process of trying to build a community center in the old bathhouse. I am clearly barking up the wrong tree in wanting to do something like that.

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  • I'm nearly speechless.


    The disuse of a historical structure is bad enough, but the sheer negligence of warehousing documents that could be used for rampant identity theft in such a vulnerable location is just mind-boggling.

    By Blogger Brian, at 8:45 AM  

  • If the fool who decided to store these documents there is still in the employ of the city then they should be fired. Today.

    Though tar and feathering, then running them out of town on a a rail would be much more satisfying.

    By Blogger Steve Graff, at 9:58 AM  

  • There's almost a certainly a chain of responsibility here. Who has access to the bathhouse? Who has access to the old records? Why not just destroy them? Twelve year old utility payment stubs?

    My main concern is when it gets cold, and someone decides that the bathhouse is the place to spend the night. Maybe build a little fire to keep warm.

    Amazing that it hasn't yet happened in the 16 freakin' years that the building has been abandoned by the city.

    By Blogger Barry, at 10:04 AM  

  • i am all for decentralised government but we've got to get people in to these jobs who give a ...
    this incident and the subsequent discovery of how dpr has been using the bath house, is very discouraging but barry, i hope you don't decide to step aside. i'm hoping the local media runs with this and you/we can finally get some traction.
    i totally agree with you that the bath house will be bulldozed or burnt down (hoefully while vacant) if the city/dpr stays in charge. let's decentralize this down and put it into the hands of someone who cares.

    By Blogger nneaspam, at 12:12 PM  

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