10/2011: The Kahn Bath House restoration has received the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2011 National Preservation Award.
7/2010: Delays have caused the restoration of the Bath House complex to miss its projected July 4 completion date. However, the entire complex is projected to be open and operational by late August 2010. Mercer County’s website about the Kahn Bath House and restoration, unveiled in 2009, has won an “honorable mention” in the 2010 MUSE Awards from the American Association of Museums. The website can be accessed at www.kahntrentonbathhouse.org.
1/2010: Restoration of the Bath House and Day Camp Buildings has begun. The project is scheduled for completion by July 4, 2010.
2009: The property is now owned by Ewing Township and serves as the Ewing Community and Senior Center. Restoration plans have been finalized and are scheduled to move forward.
3/07: Mercer County has purchased the complex for $8.1 million using a New Jersey Historic Trust grant, Green Acres funding and Open Space Trust funds.
8/06: Mercer County has announced plans to purchase the Bath House and Day Camp property and transfer ownership to Ewing Township, with preservation and conservation easements. The county is re-evaluating the restoration estimates for the structures made four years ago and is planning to seek private donations and state aid to offset the restoration costs. These world-renowned structures will be advertised as a tourist landmark.
7/06: A protected local landmark, the bath house property continues to languish, because of the Center’s inability to raise $500,000, the approximate amount estimated as needed for its restoration in the 2002 study funded by the NJHT grant. The property has not been sold but is zoned for high-density housing, and there have been offers to take advantage of this provision as well as offers that call for the preservation of the property as open space.
2005: JCC has announced plans to sell the Bath House and Day Camp property in order to relocate to West Windsor.
2000: The Jewish Community Center has been awarded a planning grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust to address long-term preservation needs and priorities.
1997: The bathhouse pavilions have been closed. There has been a partial stabilization effort by a contractor: scaffolding is attached to one structure, and all of the structures have now been boarded up to prevent use. Concerns about liability are significant. A new book by Susan Solomon on the history of the bathhouse should bring attention to the importance of this architectural masterpiece, and hopefully, will inspire a plan for the pavilion’s future.
World-renowned architect Louis I. Kahn designed these structures between 1955 and 1957 for the Jewish Community Center in Ewing, which still owns them. Architectural historians hail the open-air, cruciform bath house and day camp pavilions as a turning point in modern design. Students of architecture from around the world visit the buildings.
At the time of this list, the Jewish Community Center had applied to demolish several of the pavilions that were in the worst condition. The facility was being used as a day camp and there were genuine safety problems because of the level of deterioration of some of the structures. An outpouring of support led the Center to rethink its plans, but with continued problems in finding an affordable means to preserve the structures and address the concerns for the safety of the Center’s campers.
Donna M. Lewis, Director, Mercer County Planning Division
640 South Broad Street P.O. 8068,
Trenton, NJ 08650