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Barton Springs bathhouse to get renovation, celebration

Conservancy presents a bounty of spring events for the 70-year-old building

Art Moderne Streamliner style rotunda on one-story masonry building
Barton Springs bathhouse rotunda
Courtesy Barton Springs Conservancy

If there’s anything more iconic in Austin than Barton Springs, well, we just don’t know what it could be—unless, possibly, it’s the historic Barton Springs Bathhouse, if for nothing else because of the topless sunbathing area on the ladies’ side.

The bathhouse is turning 70 this year, which means it’s due for a renovation. The Barton Springs Conservancy is on it, having recently rolled out plans for the renovation/conservation of the building as well as for a citywide birthday celebration for the stalwart structure.

Built in 1947 (for those of you who don’t want to do the math), the building was designed by architect Dan Driscoll, the Barton Springs Bathhouse is an historical and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is both and state historic landmark. A one-story masonry building with Streamline Moderne (aka “ocean-liner-style”) influences, it has been modified very little since it was built; the only substantial change is that an addition was made to corner of the women’s locker room to provide a new space for ticket sales.

bathhouse courtyard with grass, palms, surrounded by columned walkways
Barton Springs bathhouse interior
Creative Commons

By now, naturally, the original bathhouse could use some repair, rehabilitation, and updating. According to the city’s Barton Springs Master Plan, major elements of the plan (other than repairs, equipment replacement, and that sort of thing) include creating a visitor’s center; returning ticket sales to the rotunda, where they were originally, upgrading the bathhouses, and reconfiguring the public restrooms (which are open to Zilker Park visitors, even if they don’t have a ticket for the Springs.

black and white photo of art moderne bathouse with two people walking up to its rotunda
Barton Springs bathhouse, 1947
Courtesy of Barton Springs Conservancy

The Conservancy has planned a couple of events to celebrate the bathhouse’s 70th anniversary as well as raise for the bathhouse rehabilitation: On May 11, it’s hosting a 70th Birthday Bash fundraiser and dinner at the Driskill Hotel (it’s also the 70th birthday of Luci Baines Johnson, who serves as Honorary Chair of the Conservancy’s For the Love of the Springs Campaign).

On May 13, the Conservancy will host a free and public parade and plunge at the 70th Birthday Splash, with a free and public parade, plunge, and party (there will be cake!). Participants are, naturally, encouraged to express their personal styles for the latter.

Barton Springs Master Plan [City of Austin]

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