Friday, May 26, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: May 26

May 26, 1900 – By ceremonies on Harriet Island this afternoon, the city of St. Paul came into possession of a finely appointed public bathing establishment, a gift to the city from Dr. Justus Ohage, official head of the municipal department of health. The buildings and the work done on the island represent an investment of less than $10,000.

Harriet Island1

It was while traveling to the continent several years ago that Dr. Ohage inspected the public baths* of Germany, Holland, Austria and France. He became possessed of the idea that St. Paul should have free public baths, and never lost sight of the idea. Today he saw the fruition of months of effort toward that accomplishment. Over a year ago he purchased the title to Harriet Island, a sandy wooded tract of ten acres, just below the Wabasha Street bridge. He went about getting money by subscription to pay for the work to be done, intending all the time to present the city with the island for park and bathing purposes. About $3,000 was raised by subscription, but the doctor was anxious to see the work completed.

One of the conditions of the gift to the city was that no alcoholic liquors or cigarettes would be brought to, used, sold or given to others on the island. Another condition is that the establishment will remain at all times under the direct supervision of the municipal department of health, the superintendent having full police power, his idea being that in this manner the baths will be kept in the finest sanitary condition.

Harriet Island Public Baths2

The Saint Paul Globe; “Public Baths Are Opened. Harriet Island Is Formally Dedicated to the City of St. Paul. For the Free Bath Project. Mayor Kiefer and Gov. Lind Participate in the Formal Exercises of the Occasion.”; May 27, 1900; p. 1.

*Public baths originated from a communal need for cleanliness at a time when most people did not have access to private bathing facilities.




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