If you lived in Brisbane in the late 1800s and didn’t want to bathe in raw sewage, the Spring Hill Baths were the place for you. One earliest public pools constructed in the southern hemisphere, they were erected at a time before indoor plumbing was widely available. As such, the baths provided a place to practice safe and regular hygiene as the the Brisbane River (aka: the alternative option) was becoming a source of disease.
Reminiscent of Victorian-era baths around the world, the bright and colorful Spring Hill Baths came equipped with an innovative filtration system designed to drain the pool in just fifteen minutes and replenish it every day with water from Petrie’s Bight ensuring that the water was clean and refreshed regularly.
However, as the waters surrounding the area became more and more polluted, so did the water that replenished the pool. It became necessary just a few decades after the baths opened to add a salt-water supply, before ultimately a modern filtration system was installed.
When it first opened, the building was designed for men only, but women would eventually be welcomed into the mix. By the late 1920s mixed bathing had been officially allowed with “Ladies Only This Side” and “Gents Only This Side” signs marking the historic segregation on the changing room blocks, to help avoid any confusion.
Mayor James Hipwood, whose name still graces the building, took the honorary first dip into the water. Well over a century after that first swim, the Brisbane community still utilizes the pool on a regular basis, making it one of the oldest baths from the era to still be in use. Today, they just ask that folks practice good hygiene *before* they jump in.
Written by: Chris Gilson