Brief History of the Everard Baths and Video of the 1977 Fire

During 1888 the Everard Baths was a Turkish “health and fitness” bath founded by financier James Everard in a former church. Building was designed in a typical late nineteenth century architectural style, Victorian Romanesque Revival which was common at the time. James Everard who owned and operated the Everard brewery on 135th Street.

November 28, 1898 gas was suspected in the death of a soldier who was found dead in his room at the baths. On January 5, 1919 and not to long after in 1920 the Society for the Suppression of Vice encouraged random police raids in which 25 people were arrested including the manager.

Everard baths was known as the “classiest, safest, and best known of the baths,” eventually picking up the nickname, Everhard and most frequented by homosexuals in the 1920s which became the community’s top social venue in the 1930s. At the entrance were two green lights giving the look of a police precinct and giving speculation that it was owned by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York.

Emlyn Williams described a visit in 1927: Up some stairs at a desk an ashen bored man in shirtsleeves produced a ledger crammed with illegible scrawls. I added mine, paid my dollar, was handed a key, towel and robe, hung the key on my wrist and mounted to a large floor as big as a warehouse and as high: intersecting rows of private rooms each windowless cell dark except from the glimmer from above through wire-netting shredded with dust and containing a narrow workhouse bed…[he later heard] a casual whisper, a sigh lighter than thistle-down, a smothered moan.

Then appeasement: the snap of a lighter as two strangers sat back for a smoke and polite murmured small talk, such as they might exchange in a gym. Among the documented patrons were Alfred Lunt, Lorenz Hart, Charles James, Gore Vidal and Nureyev. Truman Capote and Ned Rorem wrote about their visits.

May 25, 1977 nine patrons from the ages seventeen to forty were killed in a fire that day, seven from smoke inhalation, one from respiratory burns, and one who had jumped from an upper floor. Contributing factors were the deteriorating conditions and the lack of sprinklers (which were in the process of being installed). Firefighters said they were held back in the rescue efforts by paneling covering the windows. Between 80 and 100 customers left the building; the indefinite number was because the club did not have registration at the time. Most of the victims were identified by friends rather than family.

Customers mentioned costs were five dollars for a locker or seven dollars for a cubicle (six dollars & nine dollars and twenty five cents on weekends). Reguardless of the damage, the baths would reopen not to long after. It was closed in April 1986 by mayor Ed Koch during the city’s campaign to close such places during the AIDS epidemic.

Video shows the day the Everard Baths was under a suspicious fire on 28th street and Broadway during May in 1977, fire fighters and EMS race to help the injured while the blaze continues to wreak havoc. Everard would continue business for another nine years after the blaze and would never see the light of day after 1986. Today in 2010 the original Everard Baths is a wholesale distributor for clothing, accessories and toys. Video courtesy of bxbuff, Thank you. Enjoy

6 Responses to “Brief History of the Everard Baths and Video of the 1977 Fire”

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  1. BobSkiba says:

    I was living in Boston in 1977. My boy friend’s ex, Jimmy Stuard, was a DJ in NYC at the time. We had gone down to visit him that weekend and waited all night at his apartment for him. He never showed up. He had died in that fire. I still recall it as if it were yesterday.

  2. Robert says:

    Thank you Bob for adding this comment. With this Jimmy Stuard who was lost in the Everard Baths Fire in 1977 will live on in our memories and in our hearts.

  3. Cisco says:

    This was the soul purpose of creating backinthegays, to preserve our individual history and not letting the “winners” dictate what history should be seen, read or heard. Thank you for sharing yours and sorry for your loss.

    Glad you found us and welcome to back in the gays. Where aLL our history is important.

  4. TnTUAZ says:

    Cisco: Thank you for creating this place. I too am a survivor of that era in NYC. I moved there in 1970, and left in 1988. I couldn’t go to any more funerals or memorial services. The first bar I went to was the Eagles Nest and I fell in love. Literally, with one of the bartenders. We remained friends until his death in 1988.
    Today we are in danger of losing the feeling of what it was like to be free to be ourselves for probably the first time.
    It was intoxicating, liberating, and breath taking. We were the first to know this. We must not lose the history of that era.
    Cisco, I suspect we may have known one another back then. LOL
    Again, thanks for the site.
    I will post some of my fondest memories soon.
    TnTUAZ.

  5. Cisco says:

    Hello TnTUAZ – Welcome to BiTG – Glad You found us! That time was a fun fill of emotions, free spirited sex drive with a lot of tragedies. The Good times, just as much as the darkness of reality should be shared through our stories and experiences. We have learned so much from them. Look forward to you sharing the Good Times, The Sad Times and everything else in between. So, we know each other? :) You can send me a private message here, to refreshen my memory :) Chat SOon!! <3

  6. Standish says:

    I’m joining this thread late, but I thought you would like to know that I recently purchased a large collection of “Michael’s Thing” bar guides that came out weekly in the 1970s and 1980s in NYC. Remember them? They actually provide a fascinating glimpse into that era that I loved and remember so well. There was a regular columnist who wrote about disco and the dance scene of that time, and there were many mentions of Jimmy Stuard being the great DJ at the legendary waterfront disco, 12 West.

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