This week in her series about the history of the Museum’s building, Mary Anne Fantauzzi conveys the distinct experience of taking a mineral bath at the Washington Baths in the first half of the twentieth century.
One of the most frequently asked questions by visitors to the National Museum of Dance is, “What would you recommend we do while we are staying in your city?”. Without hesitation, my response is, “Take a mineral bath!”.
Although the Washington Bath House is no longer in existence, its footprint remains in historical documents from the George S. Bolster Collection of Old Saratoga Springs. A record of services and prices offered in 1938 and 1965 is seen below. In 1938, prices ranged from $.50 for a private room to $1.75 for a mineral bath. Twenty-seven years later, a private room increased to $.75 and a mineral bath to $3.00.
The signature treatment of the bathhouse was a tub bath. By filling the tub with a precise balance of hot and cold mineral water, attendants preserved the natural carbonation of the spring waters at a comfortable bath temperature of approximately 95 degrees.
When bathers immersed themselves in the supersaturated waters, little carbon dioxide bubbles would form on their skin. These bubbles not only provided a gentle and relieving stimulation, but also helped the patient to absorb the gasses through their skin. Once absorbed, the carbon dioxide would dilate the patients’ blood vessels, improving their circulation and digestion while providing a relaxing oasis.
Following this fifteen-minute bath, patients would rest for half an hour in an adjoining bedroom. The intent was to give their bodies a chance to peacefully absorb the minerals but was also essential to their mental health. In these serene, delicately lit rooms, patrons could relax and allow themselves to feel the healing effects of their treatments.