I've been wondering and worried about what's happening at the Russian & Turkish baths on 10th Street. New York reports they're getting prettied up after 115 years. Which hopefully does not translate to "robbed of all that was wonderfully decrepit so the carpetbaggers of the new East Village can feel more spa-like when they schvitz."
The Baths certainly got trendy in recent years, but let's pray they don't lose their steamy soul in the process. I'd hate to walk by and find the place covered in undulating glass.
Here's a bit of history from the New York Times:
Steaming to Serenity At the Turkish Baths
by Douglas Martin
May 10, 1991
Timelessness because nothing seems to change in the dank, dark room. People move up and down the tiers of seats, but somehow don't seem to really move at all. Some leave to jump in the cold water pool just outside, or the more civilized whirlpool. Others enter, gasping at first. The bare light bulbs seem ancient enough to have been installed by Edison. Water runs continously into the plastic pickled herring buckets placed around the room. The wet floor glistens like a million diamonds.
It is easy to remember the legends of this place, some of which may even be true. How in the old days all the masseurs could neither hear nor speak so presumably they could tell no tales. (One remains.) How there was a special room for gangsters to check Tommy guns. How Jake, a chef and John Belushi's treasured chum, would concoct feasts with a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
The place changed when Big Al Modlinz, the last owner, died on the job, while scrubbing a patron with oak leaves. He was unbelievably rude, but had clung to the old Lower East Side ways....