Bathhouses, Birds And Birdbrains
To see the connection, read on.
Lining up for a nickel scrub: City Bath #2, Vineyard Avenue, Yonkers, around 1900.
Photo: Collection of the hudson river museum, gift of the yonkers camera shop, 1971
Q: I hear there is, or at least was, a bathhouse in Yonkers. When was it in use and what is it now? In other words, can you find anything out?
—Audrey Heller, Tuckahoe
A: Audrey, we can find out everything. Haven’t you been reading the column for the last year? (Oh, that’s right. Happy first birthday, “Ask Westchester.” Please keep all gifts under fifty dollars.) Now, about those bathhouses. There were actually four of them, all built between 1896 and 1925; and yes, it was because people back then really did stink. But along with indoor plumbing came indoor bathing, and more people became less willing to fork over the nickel it cost to wash up in public. Fast forward to the early ’80s. Bathhouse One has already been scrubbed (sorry) in favor of residential property and the Yonkers City Planning Bureau, surely worried about losing the historic bathhouse crowd, requested all of the remaining three be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. And they were. And they’re all still here. Number Two is located at 27 Vineyard Avenue and is now a church; Number Three is located at 48 Yonkers Avenue and is now a pool; and Number Four is located at 138 Linden Street and is now vacant.
Q: Every now and then, I am told by friends that they see wild turkeys scampering about the county. Are turkeys indigenous to this part of the country? Also, how many turkeys are there in Westchester?
— Pierce Aaronson, North Salem
A: How…many…turkeys…are…there…in…Westchester? Oh fair reader, why do they tempt us so? Please feel free to send your response to that question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for the bird (which is what we assume you meant), the most commonly found turkey in the country is the eastern wild turkey, approximately five million of whom call states from Louisiana to Maine home. That area, of course, includes Westchester, though, until recently, it almost didn’t as the turkey population neared zero here early last century. But the fowl have returned home to roost to the tune of…well, it’s tough to say. Statistics are based on numbers voluntarily reported by hunters. The State Department of Environmental Conservation estimates there are between 250,000 and 300,000 turkeys in the state, and, of the approximately 25,000 birds estimated harvested (which is different from “living”), 67 were in Westchester. If you do the math, that puts us at around 1,000 local turkeys—the bird, that is.
Q: Why doesn’t anyone around this county have any common sense anymore?
A: “Anymore,” you say? What makes you think we ever had any common sense? We don’t do anything “common” around here. Take a Yonkers man, who, in 1946 told a New York Times reporter that he was very pleased that science had “advanced” far enough to produce ape servants, an advertisement for which he had recently received in the mail. And let’s not forget the Westchester resident who, in 2007, left his shoes inside a house he was burglarizing only to be caught walking barefoot in the house soon after. But whom we most fancy is the Peekskill man who, just a few years ago, went trick-or-treating with his daughter—wearing the orange prison jumpsuit he had stolen after his release from jail a month earlier. Poor choice of costume and neighborhood. He was nabbed by a corrections officer trick-or-treating nearby.