Division Street Russian and Turkish Baths
Division Street Russian and Turkish Baths was a traditional Russian-style bathhouse at 1914 W. Division Street in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, which closed in 2010. Until close, it had operated since 1906. Although it originally provided separate facilities for both men and women, the women's side had been closed for several years.
The most popular feature at Division Bath was the traditional Russian Banya or hot room. These rooms (one on either side) were built of concrete and tile with glass doors. In a corner of each is a brick oven in which granite boulders, approximately the size of watermelons, were heated to extreme temperatures by gas jets; hot water was then thrown on the rocks by the customers as desired. When this happens, the water instantly evaporates, creating steam inside the oven and heating the brick enclosure, thereby raising the air temperature in the room. This method provides a much dryer heat than common steam rooms. The bathers would sit or lie on three-level tiered wooden benches, which allow for dramatically different temperatures at the various heights. Cold water was provided by taps located under the benches - when overwhelmed by the heat, a bather would dump a bucket of frigid water over their head while still in the hot room, or may step outside to use the cold pools.
Division Bath was the only traditional bathhouse remaining in Chicago, and one of only a handful in the United States. Authors who have written about it include Nelson Algren and Saul Bellow. One of its most prominent regular customers was Reverend Jesse Jackson - a fact that brought the bathhouse some publicity when it was first reported in the mainstream press. Mobster Sam Giancana was also said to have gone, and various out-of-town celebrities such as James Gandolfini and Russell Crowe had occasionally visited; their autographed portraits lined a corridor on the first floor.