Story kiosk location
- Corner of Preston and Somerset Street
- (1924 -1996) The Plant Baths operated until a lack of maintenance led to their closure in the mid 1990s. They re-opened in 2004 thanks to community lobbying.
Who lived here?
- Ottawa-born Second World War artist Tom Wood spent a few days here in 1937, making chalk and pencil drawings of patrons.
As you admire the neo-Gothic architecture of this red-brick building, know that this bathhouse once housed a library...
…created by wealthy citizens hoping that exercise and cleanliness would “improve” the working classes.
Anchoring the intersection of Little Italy, Chinatown, and Hintonburg, Plant Bath and the Community Centre has been a focal point and gathering place for the neighbourhood since 1924.
The baths were seen as an important step in promoting hygiene and good health, particularly for working-class families whose homes lacked indoor plumbing. Over the decades thousands of children learned to swim here and it became a hub of community life.
We chose to decorate our installation with the beautiful red chalk drawings of famous Canadian artist Tom Wood, known especially for his paintings during the Second World War. In April 1937, Tom visited Plant Bath and his sketchbook, from which these illustrations are taken, shows divers, bathers, and spectators (the woman in the fancy hat).
Held by Library and Archives Canada, these sketches have remained largely unknown and unseen, until now. We are very grateful to Martha (Wood) Gougeon for permission to share them with you.
This story was researched and developed by Rebecca Sykes and as a contribution to the Workers’ History Museum’s Capital History Kiosk’s project for Ottawa 2017. It formed part of her coursework for Professor David Dean’s graduate seminar on museums, national identity, and public memory (Department of History, Carleton University).