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Forest River Bathhouse & Pool in Salem Receives 2024 Robert H. Kuehn, Jr. Award


Exterior of the Forest River Bathouse with newly restored landscaping and masonry
Forest River Bathhouse

Preservation Mass is excited to announce that the Forest River Bathhouse & Pool in Salem is a recipient of the 2024 Robert H. Kuehn, Jr. Award.


This completed project successfully combines historic preservation objectives with important community goals for climate resiliency, accessibility, environmental education and public art to create a new Forest River Outdoor Recreation & Nature Center project that will serve Salem residents for many years to come.


Forest River Park’s earliest known private owners were William Flint (1603-1673) and his wife Alice Williams Flint (1608-1700). The property remained under private control until Salem’s Board of Park Commissioners took the land by eminent domain to establish a public park in 1907. In the late 1920s, the bathhouse was replaced with the present structure. It is unknown who designed the Forest River Park Bathhouse, however it is architecturally similar to a bathhouse that once stood north of the site in Salem that was designed by Ambrose Walker.

A concrete pool replaced the tidal pool, likely in the 1960s, and the 1971-72 renovations to the pool and bathhouse provided restrooms, changing rooms, concession stands, a caretaker’s room, a first aid room, a lifeguard station, and information stand. The last major upgrade to the pool was in 1999 when it was converted from saltwater to freshwater.

In 2017, the almost 100-year-old bathhouse exhibited signs of major deterioration, and the 50-year-old pool had reached the end of its lifespan. The City consulted with the Salem Historical Commission in fall of 2017 on options for the site, including full-scale replacement of both the pool and the bathhouse. Based on input from the Commission and Historic Salem, Inc. regarding the historic significance of the bathhouse, the City embarked on an architectural, historical, and archaeological review of the site. After considering the extensive historical importance of the Park and its structures, the City reconsidered the original plan to demolish the bathhouse and instead shifted to restoring the building’s exterior and renovating the interior for continued use as a public bathhouse.


The building’s exterior stucco was restored and the corner quoins, roof parapet design, entrance to the pool and the entrance gates on the north elevation were preserved. The rest of the north elevation was sensitively renovated with the arched openings partially infilled with recessed walls to ensure the original arcaded appearance was preserved. An addition on the east elevation provides much needed community space while respecting the view of the historic bathhouse. Throughout the design process, the City engaged with the Historical Commission.


In addition, this project sought to address climate resiliency concerns. It raised the elevation of the pools and moved them further back from the shoreline. A planted tidal area creates a salt marsh buffer against future storms, and solar panels make the bathhouse zero net energy facility aligning with City’s 100% Clean Energy Resolution. In addition, a new spray deck (The Rivers of Time) from an award-winning artist details over 600 million years of Salem’s geological history while providing opportunities for cooling in the increasingly hot weather outside of swimming pool season.


Today, the restored historic Forest River Pool Bathhouse provides a fully accessible public space for outdoor recreation and environmental programming. The history is honored through interpretive panels and historic photographs, and interpretive signage allows visitors to learn about the park’s history and its surrounding ecosystem.

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