By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Oliver Bathhouse to undergo extensive renovations

Multi-million dollar upgrades will restore bathhouse to former glory


Last updated 6/9/2021 at 8:53pm

Plans are being finalized for the renovation and restoration of the South Side Bathhouse on 10th Street. The multi-million dollar project will involve upgrades and to the building and systems, inside and out, roof to basement.

Plans for the renovation of the Oliver Bath House on South Side were presented at the South Side Community Council's May Development Activities Meeting (DAM) via Zoom.

Presenting the proposed plans were Buchart Horn Architects: Elijah Dolly, project manager; Bill Brennan, historic architect; and, Christopher Urban, project architect. Also attending from the City of Pittsburgh Architecture Division were Project Manager Claire Mastroberardino and Assistant Project Manager Joe Adiutori, Jr.

Mr. Dolly briefly explained the Oliver Bathhouse was constructed in 1915 and gifted to the city by steel magnate David W. Oliver. Originally called the South Side Baths, it was designated as a historic landmark in 2017. The facility is primarily operated as an indoor swimming pool by the City of Pittsburgh Department of Parks and Recreation.

The building sits in the East Carson Street Historic District.

"The majority of the work is a renovation of the building, no change of use," Mr. Dolly said. "Restoring it to its former glory."

Work on the exterior of the building will include cleaning of the masonry and stone. The windows will be resealed and have the gaskets replaced. The existing windows are not part of the original building having been replaced in the 1930s. Storm windows will also be added on the inside.

The architects were asked why the windows were being repaired instead of replacing them considering they weren't original to the building. Mr. Brennan said the preference was to have them repaired, if possible, rather than replaced and it was possible to repair them.

Mr. Dolly said the 10th Street door will be replaced with an entrance that will replicate the character of the original door and transom. In addition, the lighting fixtures on either side of the door will be updated to reflect something closer to what was originally installed.

The sidewalks and the rail outside the front entrance are also slated to be replaced. Suggestions from those in attendance included adding street trees where possible on the side of the building and replicating the existing railing around the mezzanine for the entrance.

The flagpole will also be replaced and Mr. Dolly said the caretaker's apartment on the roof is proposed to be demolished and a new HVAC system added in its place to help with the humidity throughout the building. Mr. Brennan said the HVAC unit wouldn't be visible from across the street.

Questioned about the durability of the HVAC saying the new ductwork in a similar indoor pool building was already showing signs of corrosion, Mr. Dolly said the ductwork in the Oliver Bathhouse would be a fiber product that resists corrosion. Only a portion of it extending to the roof unit would be metal.

Jody Schurman from the Local Review Committee said the unit would be visible from East Carson Street and suggested additional screening may be needed above the parapet.

While the wood superstructure of the roof is in "very good condition," the existing asbestos roofing and wood deck will be replaced with acoustic roof deck. Mr. Dolly said the new decking will improve the condensation and add significant insulation to the building.

In consideration is adding a door and possibly some artwork on the stucco on the hotel side of the bathhouse. Since the property is owned by the hotel, it would require their cooperation and coordination.

Moving to the inside of the building, the architects are proposing to restore the procession into the pool area from the entrance and adding a check-in counter. Currently, those entering the pool area are directed through the pool office. The redirection would free space in the office for other purposes.

Also, under consideration is adding public art in the entrance. One suggestion was to use old photographs of the bathhouse.

The renovation proposal includes upgrading the ADA restroom on the ground floor. The pool decking, masonry and terracotta around the pool will also be repaired. They are considering installing an automatic pool cover from the west (rear) wall to help cut down on the humidity and on the air handling loads.

The architects were quizzed on if the pool cover would prevent children from using the small deck area near the back of the pool. The pool covers they are considering would be mounted high enough and use a pulley system to deploy so it wouldn't prevent use of the back deck area.

Up on the mezzanine, the entrance will be restored to "a more open and inviting area." The changing rooms will be replaced to reflect what was originally in the building and the fixtures in the shower and toilet rooms will be upgraded with new fixtures.

Plans call for raising the existing railing around the mezzanine for current code compliance. They also plan to take the bow out of the railing. The floor surface will be repaired or replaced and could be treated with a textured epoxy to reduce slipping.

Several attendees also commented on the steps leading to the mezzanine level saying the surface was uncomfortable and should be considered for an upgrade.

In the basement, they plan to upgrade the underside of the pool deck. Repair are also planned for the vaults that extend below the sidewalks on 10th Street.

Mr. Dolly said there will also be new lighting throughout the building to reduce the glare on the pool surface.

Ms. Mastroberardino said bids for the project are expected to go out in early to mid-winter. Parks and Recreations officials asked that construction begin in April or May 2022 to allow use of the building for training lifeguards. Construction should take 10 to 12 months.

The South Side Community Council is accepting comments on the proposed renovation for 30 days from the May 27 meeting. To comment, email:

The proposal will then have hearings before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, Art Commission and Historic Review Commission.


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