See restoration plans for the historic Orchard Beach Pavilion in the Bronx

May 5, 2021

View of the Upper and Lower Promenades, Cafeteria, and South Loggia, Looking South (1936); Images courtesy of Marvel/ NYC Parks/ NYCEDC

The landmarked bathhouse and pavilion at Orchard Beach in the Bronx will be restored to its original 1930s design and become more accessible to the public. The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday voted to approve plans from architecture firm Marvel, the Parks Department, and the city’s Economic Development Corporation to reconstruct the deteriorating architectural gem. The project includes reinstalling and restoring limestone cladding, repairing the upper-level loggias, adding an ADA accessible ramp, and building an enclosed restaurant or event space.

As part of the most eastern end of Pelham Bay Park, Orchard Beach faces a basin on the Long Island Sound. Envisioned by former Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and built between 1934 and 1937, the borough’s only public beach was constructed as part of the New Deal.

A 2006 LPC designation report called Orchard Beach “one of the most ambitious and successful projects undertaken by Moses” that was funded by the Works Progress Administration.

In the report designating the structure as an individual landmark, the commission recognized the “concrete, brick, and limestone bathhouse, embellished with tile and terrazzo finishes,” the “two monumental colonnades that radiate outward from a raised central terrace,” and the “crescent-shaped promenade” that curves alongside the beach, as significant elements.

Rendering of updated land-side access, looking north

Rendering of beach-side access

The plan calls for a new ramp that “peels away” from the historic loggia to minimize the impact to the lower loggia, as well as the installation of globe stair fixtures that were part of the original design. The project also involves replacing decaying terrazzo flooring and compromised floor slabs, adding new waterproof pavers, and repairing and replacing historic terracotta elements, lights, and clocks.

Even though the bathhouse and pavilion have been abandoned and closed to the public for many years, the beach continues to be a popular summer destination, with an average of over 1.6 million visitors each season. By reopening them, the city hopes to provide a much-needed amenity to beachgoers and Bronx and Upper Manhattan residents.

Existing and proposed beach-side access with added guardrail and ramp

“The people of the Bronx deserve an updated, usable public space at Orchard Beach that is accessible to everyone, which reflects the past and looks to the future,” Nilka Martell, the president of Friends of Pelham Bay Park, testified on Tuesday.

“We look forward to seeing people using the Pavilion again, bringing back life to this beautiful historic structure.”

Most commissioners applauded Marvel’s design, although some concern was raised about the visibility of rooftop mechanical equipment. Along with its approval, the LPC said the applicants should work with them on minimizing the view of the HVAC systems from the ground level, an issue the Historic Districts Council also raised in testimony.

“We appreciate the study of user experience time in the drop off area versus the beach area, however, we hope that further study of the visibility of the rooftop mechanicals can be explored to reduce and/or relocate them,” reads testimony from the HDC.

“In a similar vein, we felt that the exposed HVAC system in the newly enclosed North Waiting Room appears a bit haphazard and intrusive in this space. Overall, this is a spectacular project and will allow one of the gems of the Bronx to once again shine.”

Construction is expected to wrap up in 2023, according to the architects. See the full presentation to the LPC here.


Images courtesy of Marvel/ NYC Parks/ NYCEDC

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