Victorian Turkish Baths Picture of the Month for May 2011

The Turkish hot room: The Luxor Baths Hotel:
121 West 46th Street, New York (NY),
c.1925

< Detail from hotel postcard, c.1925

The Luxor Baths Hotel was built by the DPR Construction Company at a cost of $1,250,000, and opened in February 1925. It was still open in the early 1970s.

On the back of the postcard, the caption notes that the the Luxor Baths Hotel was 'The only modern hotel that provides FREE for its guests, the use of its Russian-Turkish Baths, Pine Steam Room and Swimming Pool'.

GurdjieffOne of the most famous bathers at these baths was the Armenian thinker and mystic, George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. His visits were described by William J Welch in his autobiography What happened in between: A doctor’s story (New York: George Braziller, 1972) :

[Gurdjieff's] abdominal girth was heroic and his presence in the Turkish bath, while not gargantuan, was at least the match of Rodin’s Balzac. He held court, when in New York, in the vast hot room of the Luxor baths on West Forty-sixth Street, an iced towel flipped around his bald head, his tiny feet splayed out under his vast belly above the expanse of which he poured himself tumblers of Perrier water, belching roundly, proclaiming with gutty satisfaction to no one in particular, 'Bravo, Perrier!'

Regular visits to the bath were a ritual part of the festival of his life, and many of the men in the group around him became devotees of the hot room, the steam room, and even the Russian room, where the blinding heat, produced by splashing white hot rocks with cold water, was nearly more than could be borne, especially at the uppermost levels of the bleacher-like benches that lined the enclosure.

Other patrons must have wondered at the enigmatic, caramel-colored, fiercely moustached figure of Gurdjieff picking his way with feline grace from the hot room to the steam room to the Russian room, ultimately to lead his band of followers to the marble staircase going down into the neo-renaissance pool, which took up the central area of the baths. Only an 'eedyot' would have the stupidity to plunge into the pool on emerging from the heat of the steam room or the sauna…

We would line up on either side of him as he took a sitting position in the middle at the top of the staircase, with only his feet touching the water, several steps below the level of his tawny rump. At measured intervals, we would follow his lead in unison, and slip down one step at a time, until we were finally sitting chin deep in the chilly pool.

Excerpt taken from the Gurdjieff international review
 

The Luxor Baths Hotel

Postcard published: Boston, Mass : Tichnor, c.1925

This item is from the collection of the Victorian Turkish Baths Project

 

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The right of Malcolm Shifrin to be identified as the author of this work
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