The heritage restoration to one of Sydney’s most-loved assets, the beautiful 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.
Council is celebrating the completion of the $8 million heritage restoration works with a special winter program and free entry for two weeks after the reopening.
“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,” said Mayor Byrne.
“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, he said.”
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.
As well, 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 threw up challenge after challenge.
In just one 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.
“This was a massive engineering feat,” Mayor Byrne said.
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’s 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.
Dawn Fraser Baths, built in the 1880s, is home to the oldest swimming club in Australia.
Mayor Byrne said he understood the deep emotional attachment the Balmain community felt for the Baths.
“I spent half my childhood there and it’s where I learnt to swim, so I know just how special this place is and how vital Dawny’s is to the social fabric of our community.” he said.
Funding for the project included a $2.2 million grant from the Greater Sydney Sports Facility Fund.