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.
Over the coming months we will be telling more stories about Plant Bath, so be sure to return to our website!
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).
Thanks to Mary Johnston Miller of Library and Archives Canada, Megan Michie and Linda Cheslock of the City of Ottawa and Marie-Soleil Bergeron of Ottawa 2017 for their assistance, and to Lori Mellor of the Preston Street BIA and Councillor Catherine McKenny for their support.
This entry for capitalhistory.ca and its related installation at Preston and Gladstone was made possible by Ottawa 2017, CIBC and the three Arts, Culture and Heritage Program Stewarding Partners AOE Arts Council, Ottawa Arts Council and Council of Heritage Organizations of Ottawa.