The Gaskill Street Baths

In just 16 years — from 1860 to 1876 — Philadelphia’s population swelled by more than a quarter of a million people, most of them immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe.

With this sudden crush of people came typical urban problems of overcrowding, poor sanitation and disease, especially in the densely populated areas of Southwark (an area bounded by the Delaware River on the east, Passyunk on the west, South Street on the north and Mifflin Street on the south).

These newcomers to the City of Brotherly Love were considered unclean, unhealthy and uncivilized. Spurred by proof in the 1880’s that specific microorganisms could cause typhoid, cholera, tuberculosis, diphtheria and more, public baths became the answer to all three problems.