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Friday, July 24, 2015

Del Monte Bath House

Hotel Del Monte Bath House, c. 1910. [Bancroft Library]
The Hotel Del Monte was privileged to have two passenger stops for its facilities in the early years after its erection. The primary station is the topic of another article, but just to the northeast of it was the "Del Monte Bath House" stop. Bath House was fairly unique among Southern Pacific Railroad stops because it did not appear on employee timetables (whether it appeared in agency books is not known to this historian). It opened in 1890 as a passenger-only flag-stop catering to visitors to the hotel's luxurious bathing facilities and gardens. The idea of metropolitan flag-stops was not unique, but it was a specific characteristic of Monterey within the Monterey Bay railroad network. The stop had no sidings or spurs.

A bit more is known about the bath house itself. The bath house was the last item built following the 1887 fire that destroyed the original Hotel Del Monte, probably opened in 1889. It sat across the railroad tracks and beside Del Monte Avenue on 24 acres of beachfront property, with a pier and saltwater pump situated in the Monterey Bay. It was designed very similarly to the Miller-Leibbrandt Plunge in Santa Cruz which was constructed soon afterwards, incorporating a mix of interior baths, a large heated saltwater pool, changing stalls, and a small restaurant. Ocean swimming facilities were also included, as well as access to the pier. The pool was knocked out of commission during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and it was closed until the summer of 1907 when a massive renovation and expansion repaired and improved the facility.

Advertising page from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, c. 1910.
The bath house closed in 1924 when the second hotel burned down, and a new Roman-style bath was installed closer to the hotel later that year. A petition was lodged for the City of Monterey to purchase the property and old bath house for public use. Unfortunately, others wished to purchase the property and subdivide it for beachfront homes. When the bath house burned down in 1930, the realtors got their way and the area became a residential and commercial block for decades. Since the 1980s, the city has been repurchasing the properties and demolishing them in order to reclaim the beach, but it has been a slow task and is not entirely completed. Del Monte Beach at the end of Surf Way marks the site of the bath house, while the subdivision between Del Monte Avenue and the beach is what is slowly being removed.

A curious side-note: a large otherwise unimportant warehouse just to the northeast of Casa Verde Way has all the appearance of a railroad freight station and the arrangement of its parking lot and proximity to the tracks suggests that it once was serviced by the railroad. Further research is required to determine what precisely that structure was used for and when it operated.

Illustration showing the bathhouse to the northwest of Hotel Del Monte, with a train approaching from the east, c. 1890.
(Bancroft Library)
Official Railroad Information:
The station is recorded for the first time as a flag-stop on public timetables in 1890, but did not appear on 1891 public timetables. It also did not appear in the 1899 agency book or in any later books. No other information is known from railroad documents at this time.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.600˚N, 121.880˚W

The site of Del Monte Bath House Station is at the end of La Playa Street off of Park Avenue on the north side from Del Monte Avenue. The entire small residential subdivision of Del Monte Beach Townhouses marks the site of the original bath house. Access to the property and parking on site is restricted to local residents only, but accessing the beach is free. Absolutely nothing remains of the bath house or any station that catered to it.

Citations & Credits:

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