Barton Springs bathhouse renovations within reach thanks to new funding

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A historic building next door to Austin’s beloved Barton Springs Pool will soon get the updates community members wanted.

A donation last week allowed the nonprofit Barton Springs Conservancy to reach their fundraising goal of $8 million, ensuring that there will be enough money to rehabilitate the Barton Springs Bathhouse. 

The Barton Springs Conservancy has been raising money to completely rehabilitate the bathhouse for several years. The bathhouse and the Barton Springs Pool are memorable for Austin residents and visitors alike, the bathhouse is listed on the national register of historic places. It has served millions of visitors since it was constructed in 1947. But now the Conservancy lists it as “in desperate need of repair and renovation.”

After a recent a $2.1 million donation from the Moody Foundation, the Conservancy announced on April 16 that they’ve met their goal of raising $8 million for the renovation.

A release about this donation explained that all updates will make the facility more modern and easy to access while keeping in mind the bathhouse’s history, the Barton Springs Pool Master Plan, and the Zilker Park Bathhouse Zone feasibility study. This rehabilitation is part of an effort to fulfill the Barton Springs Pool masterplan. 

Renovations will include: 

  • Opening the original men’s and women’s entrances at the central rotunda locations
  • Restoring the women’s dressing area to be brighter and larger
  • Modernizing and expanding bathroom facilities
  • Enhancing educational components that are part of the bathhouse

The $8 million raised by the Conservancy has come from a combination of public and private funds, including the voter-approved 2012 city bond, $3 million in Hotel Occupancy Tax funding, and $3 million from private philanthropic donations. The Conservancy’s numbers for how much this rehabilitation will cost are based on the redesign and budget by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. 

The Conservancy has been working on the “For the Love of the Springs” campaign” since 2016 to renovate the bathhouse. Luci Baines Johnson has been serving as the honorary chair for the campaign. The bathhouse was built the same year she was born. 

“With this gift, and the efforts of the Conservancy, the Barton Springs Bathhouse can continue to serve the needs of future Austinites as they enjoy one of Austin’s most magical places,” said Johnson.

“As a decades-long swimmer at Barton Springs, the pool and historic Bathhouse have always been special to me,” said Ross Moody, trustee of the Moody Foundation and CEO and President of National Western Life Group. 

He added that he hopes the community can continue to enjoy the bathhouse for many years. 

“The Moody Foundation’s generosity has helped us reach this incredible milestone for the Barton Springs Bathhouse, and we are thrilled to have the support of such an important philanthropist and leader in Austin so this historic Austin treasure can continue to be used and enjoyed for generations to come,” said Emma Lindrose-Siegel, Executive Director of the Barton Springs Conservancy. “With this gift, and the support of the Austin community, we can begin our efforts to rehabilitate the Historic Barton Springs Bathhouse to its original splendor, restore the rotunda and dressing areas, and make the facilities usable for modern needs.” 

Now that the funding is in place, the rehabilitation will begin, featuring design work by Limbacher & Godfrey Architects. 

Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department has partnered on this effort to rehabilitate the bathhouse as well.

“Yeah I think its definitely needed,” said Corin Cassa, who was at Barton Springs Pool Sunday, noting that the bathrooms could use a little more space for changing into swimsuits. 

Corin liked the pool and nature around it but said the bathrooms didn’t meet her expectations. 

“It was not as prime as it could be,” she said. 

Monica Fogarty, who was at Barton Springs Pool on Sunday, said she thinks the renovations will be helpful. 

“I think that would be great, I just actually changed in the women’s bathroom and I definitely see an opportunity to expand,” Fogarty said. She hopes the expansion allows for more room to change near the parking lot, “so you can go into the bathroom and just quickly get right out to the car.”

Fogarty was excited at the idea that the Conservancy would do more with the original men’s and women’s entrances at the rotunda; when she first arrived at the springs she walked in that direction thinking that’s where the entrance would be. 

Fogarty was visiting from New York, her Texas family members have been showing her around. She said she “absolutely loves” Barton Springs.

“The pool is actually amazing just because its all natural water, very clean very well kept,” she said. 

Her brother-in-law, who lives in Central Texas, chimed in:

“We hope they’re able to preserve the beauty of the springs as it grows, so as more people come to visit it can maintain its natural feel,” he said. 

An image of the Barton Springs Bathhouse. Courtesy Barton Springs Conservancy.

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