The heritage restoration to Sydney’s harbourside and historic Dawn Fraser Baths is now complete with the Baths set to reopen as soon as the public health restrictions are lifted allowing for the reopening of public pools.
The saltwater pool built in the 1880s and Australia’s oldest public swimming pool, has been closed since late 2019 while it underwent an $8 million restoration. Funding for the project included a $2.2 million grant from the Greater Sydney Sports Facility Fund.
Initial investigations showed major issues, with structural engineers identifying that 70% of the timbers of the southern pavilion need to be replaced and that the eastern end of the Southern pavilion was worse than previously reported.
Hydraulic engineers reported that the southern pavilion, kiosk and amenity were all subject to king tide flooding which would worsen as sea levels rose.
While Council progressed work as quickly as possible, the complicated heritage restoration was met with numerous challenges.
For example, during demolition the southern pavilion and boardwalk were found to have no structural foundations. Builders had to construct new foundations on rock 8-10 metres below the surface, working with large drilling machinery in confined spaces and underwater.
Back in March 2021, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that repeated delays to the works prompted Mayor Byrne to write to NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford requesting she probes staff’s handling of heritage works on Dawn Fraser Baths, which was scheduled for completion in December 2020.
Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne advised “I promised to save Dawn Fraser Baths and, while it’s been a long hard fight, together we have now secured the future of Australia’s oldest and most beautiful harbourside pool for generations to come.
“While other councils across Sydney are walking away from and closing local public pools, in the Inner West we are taking the opposite approach. We see investment in public pools as in investment in the health of our local community.”.
To celebrate the reopening, Council has extended the winter swimming season and is waiving the cost of entry for two weeks after its opening as a gesture of goodwill after the loss of the summer swimming season, caused by unavoidable delays in completing the restoration.
Additionally, a winter 2021 program of activities has been developed with help from the community. As well as winter swimming, everyone is invited to take part in daily health and wellbeing classes such as yoga, Pilates and tai chi.
Council is also offering an aquatic Lifestyle membership which gives access to all the facilities, classes and pools across Leichhardt Park Aquatic Centre, Ashfield Aquatic Centre and Dawn Fraser Baths.
6th November 2019 – Refurbishment project commences at Sydney’s Dawn Fraser Baths
2nd September 2018 – Urgent works needed to repair Sydney’s Dawn Fraser Baths
8th December 2016 – Dawn Fraser calls for all Australians to learn to swim
12th January 2021 – Confusion over access for transgender women at Sydney ‘ladies-only’ ocean pool
13th October 2020 – City of Newcastle calls for tenders to upgrade its Ocean Baths pool
24th February 2020 – Newcastle Council determined to see ocean baths restored
6th November 2019 – City of Newcastle proposes private development of ocean baths pavilions
1st November 2019 – Redevelopment of the Newcastle and Merewether Ocean Baths pavilions
23rd October 2019 – February reopening scheduled for redeveloped Tobruk Memorial Baths in Townsville
27th August 2019 – Lake Macquarie City Council begins remediation works at Kilaben Bay baths
12th December 2016 – Hepburn Wellness to create pop-up day spa at Lorne Sea Baths
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