Play Arts Coming to Former Bath House Under the El

Front Street under the El might be our biggest surprise as far as development goes in the last few years. We get it that South Kensington and Fishtown are buzzing on either side, but that doesn't change the fact that Front Street sits in perpetual shadow and the El rumbles past every few minutes. Still we've seen a wave of projects on Front Street of late, with a mix of new construction, like the mixed-use building that looks like a ski slope on the 1300 block, and adaptive reuse, like the new Honeygrow HQ on the 1600 block. Today we turn our eye to another adaptive reuse project, and it's one of the cooler examples we've seen in recent memory.

Public Bath in 1915, from Phillyhistory.org

A public bath opened at 1241 S. Front St. in the early 1900s, and remained in use through 1960 according to a Hidden City story that we highly recommend. The building deteriorated for a few years before turning to industrial use, first as a shoe refinishing company and then as a brush manufacturing company in the 1990s. As recently as a couple of years ago, the building was looking much worse for wear.

Just a few years ago

You can see, the original roof was removed, the windows were bricked over, and the Public Bath sign was covered at some point over the years. But if you pass by this building today, you'll see it's looking so much better.

Current view

The original sign has been restored! The windows have been reopened! And if you look carefully at the signs in the windows, you can see what's coming next.

Signs in the windows

PlayArts has taken over the building and will soon be offering "play-based arts and enrichment" here. More specifically, they'll offer arts and music classes for kids and cognitive development for babies, per Hidden City. Bright Common Architecture & Design have been working to renovate the building inside and out, restoring it to its former glory to the extent possible.

Another view

At Front & Thompson, we see Front Street Cafe just a few doors down

And with Front Street Cafe just a few doors down, parents will have a place to grab a nosh before, after, or during class. Unless, of course, they elect to walk another block to Frankford Avenue, where they'll have their pick of stores and restaurants. Eh, maybe the Front Street boom makes some sense after all.