The Brooklyn Lyceum will once again pulse with strenuous activity when it begins a new life as a Blink Fitness later this month. Originally built as NYC Public Bath No. 7, the formerly crumbling building at 227 4th Avenue is now gleaming after a major exterior restoration project. A preview of the interior showed a significant transformation.
Built in 1906 to 1910 and designed by Brooklyn architect Raymond F. Almirall, it was one of the last Brooklyn bath houses to be built. Created by the city, bath houses were meant to address public health concerns by providing access to hygienic facilities to largely immigrant neighborhoods without access to indoor plumbing.
The bath house was open for only about 20 years. Changing tenement laws required bathtubs and toilets in all residences. The building closed for repairs around 1935, and by 1937 the failure to open it back up to the public led to a community protest against Robert Moses, who was blamed for the failure. It eventually reopened as a gymnasium and operated until the 1950s.
The building was designated an individual landmark in 1984. It became the Lyceum in the 1990s, a privately owned concert, gym and events space.
The longtime owner struggled to hold onto the building, leaving the future of the site in limbo for years. He finally lost the property to foreclosure in 2014.
Developer Greystone purchased the historic structure in 2014, and also owns the property next door at 225 4th Avenue. Greystone was able to transfer about 20,000 square feet of development rights from the Lyceum to the formerly empty lot next door and build bigger there. A 12-story luxury rental designed by Daniel Goldner Architects is under construction and will wrap in early 2018.
After the developer abandoned initial plans to transform the Lyceum into luxury condos and retailers from from Trader Joe’s to an Apple store were rumored, it emerged that the beloved space would become a Blink Fitness.
All restoration work had to go through the Landmarks approval process. “We were excited to restore it to its original glory,” said Greystone Development Manager Cian Hamill.
Throughout the restoration, as much of the original white glazed brick, limestone and terra cotta facades were retained as possible. About 20 percent of the original exterior material had to be replaced, according to Hamill. This included replicating some of the intricate ornamentation in glass fiber reinforced concrete, or GFRC.
Look closely and you will spot water imagery throughout the exterior. Underneath the cornice are blue t-shaped ornaments featuring Poseidon’s trident and his son, Triton. Fish-scale patterns and shells ornament window and door surrounds.
New windows were installed throughout, based on what were believed to be circa 1930s windows in place at the time of the building’s landmark designation in 1984.
Yet to be put in place are replicas of the original sconces that once graced the front facade. Those should be mounted and functioning by September, according to Greystone.
The historic separate entrances for men and women remain in place, a reminder of the building’s original use. The interior layout has changed significantly from its days as a public bath.
Its role as a public bath meant that the focus of the building was the massive pool on the lower level, in the basement. Designed to have a capacity of 80,000 gallons of water, the pool, in combination with the 105 showers and nine bath tubs, was estimated to be able to provide 1.5 million baths a year — that’s just over 4,000 baths per day.
The pool was ringed with a balcony at the first floor, providing a view down to the pool. Showers, men’s and women’s waiting rooms, and a small office space were also located on the first floor. The second floor was filled with more showers as well as bathtubs.
Greystone demolished the pool deck when they purchased the building in 2014. A new first floor was then constructed to provide additional square footage. During our preview visit, just the second floor was viewable.
The former pool space will now hold locker rooms and the brand new first floor and the second floor will be gym spaces.
On the second floor, historic material still visible in the space include exposed brick and the ceiling. The latter is made of concrete with an interesting treatment. Concrete was poured over corrugated iron to create pattern and texture.
Blink plans a new member preview on Wednesday, July 19 and to open for business on Friday, July 28.
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