Side A: City architect Frederic H. Betz designed the St. Clair Avenue Public Bath House and it was constructed in 1919-1920 at a cost of $320,000. The facility included a large gymnasium, swimming pool, and laundry, in addition to showers. City Council dedicated the newly completed building to the late, beloved Cleveland Indians shortstop Raymond Chapman in 1920. The St. Clair Recreation Center, as it was later known, was in the impact zone and survived the East Ohio Gas Company disaster on October 20, 1944. The facility was remodeled in 1949 and subsequent renovations demonstrate the utility of the building. Edward J. Kovacic (1910-1974) was the superintendent of the bathhouse from 1933-1934 and served on the City Council from 1940-1953. In 1977, the facility was renamed to honor Kovacic’s contributions to the citizens of the St. Clair neighborhood and to the city. (Continued on other side)
Side B: (Continued from other side) The Bath House Movement was part of Progressive Era (1890s-1920s) efforts to address public health issues associated with overcrowded, unsanitary living conditions in the city’s burgeoning immigrant neighborhoods. Beyond providing shower facilities, bath houses included gymnasiums, swimming pools, playgrounds, libraries, and baby dispensaries. Cleveland City Council passed legislation on July 22, 1901 and the first bath house was opened in 1904. In 1918 alone, the city’s report on municipal bath houses noted that 482,000 baths were taken in Cleveland’s facilities. Of the seven bath houses located throughout the city by 1921, five remain and four continue to serve as Neighborhood Resource and Recreation Centers. They stand as the manifestation of the City of Cleveland’s commitment to the health and welfare of its citizens. The city council designated the Kovacic center a Cleveland Landmark in 1994.